At the age of 8, Aaron Fotheringham accompanied his older brother to a skatepark to watch him ride BMX. On that day, Aaron decided that being a spectator wasn’t enough, and he wanted to shred the ramps with his sibling.
There were two obstacles in Aaron’s way that afternoon — the ever-present feeling of fear that every human experiences when faced with a new challenge and the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair. Born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect of the spinal cord, Aaron was forced into a wheelchair at a young age. His turns on the ramp wouldn’t involve a bike or a skateboard but his wheelchair.
“Fear is a tricky one,” Aaron told me in an email conversation when asked him about that fateful moment on the ramp. “To an extent, fear is natural, but at some point you’ve got to just push past it if you want to progress towards a certain goal.”
With encouragement from his brother, Aaron dropped in on the ramps and was instantly hooked. Since that fateful day, Aaron has continually forged new ground in and pushed the limits of what’s possible on a wheelchair. He’s also inspired new technology to make the chairs as durable as possible.
Aaron, known better these days by his nickname of Wheelz, is now a Wings for Life ambassador and tours the country raising awareness for spinal cord injuries. The Nitro Circus member, along with the people at Wings For Life, are not only raising money and awareness but assisting those individuals in wheelchairs to push themselves to take bigger risks in life.
Aaron is now just days away from taking part in the Wings for Life World Run Live Global Webcast on May 8 at starting at 6 a.m. ET with a World Run race starting at 7 am. The Wings for Life World Run will start at exactly the same time in multiple locations worldwide. Runners and wheelchair competitors race side by side.
“I’ve always felt like my biggest struggle isn’t my wheelchair,” Aaron explains, “it’s the struggle with fear and the negative thoughts in my head. For me the best way to deal with fear is to make light of the situation.”
Aaron credits his sense of humor in the face of any obstacle as the best weapon to push down internal fear or worry.
“I always joke around with my friends when I’m about to drop into a Mega Ramp. Laughing makes everything better, right?”