Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham has become internationally famous in recent years for the extreme stunts he performs on the Nitro Circus tour. But unlike other athletes on tour, Fotheringham’s tool of trade isn’t a skateboard or a dirt bike: It’s a wheelchair.
The 24-year-old Las Vegas native was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in the spinal cord that has confined him to a wheelchair for his entire life.
But despite that somewhat bleak prognosis, Fotheringham has excelled in action sports, becoming the first person to ever land a backflip, a double backflip and a front flip on a wheelchair while tackling everything from skate parks to 50-foot mega ramps on the Nitro Circus Tour.
“I first started going to skate parks when I was around the age of 8 years old — my older brother was really into action sports at the time,” Fotheringham told People Magazine recently. “He was a BMXer, so he was always kind of pumping me up and he was a big inspiration for me. He helped me get to the top of the ramp, and from there I just started dropping in more and more.”
For Fotheringham, the thrill of soaring through the air on his wheelchair is irreplaceable, one that he is now hoping to help others experience.
“For me it’s just showing people that a wheelchair doesn’t really define your ability,” Fotheringham told Red Bull in a recent video. “And that you can achieve all your goals and your dreams, it just takes hard work.”
In order to help inspire others in wheelchairs overcome their disabilities, Fotheringham has been holding clinics at some of the Nitro Circus events to teach people how to see their wheelchairs as opportunities, not disadvantages.
“I’m there to give them advice and show them how to do certain tricks,” Fotheringham said in a recent interview with Red Bull. “I think it definitely helps to give them that spark. I wish I had had someone on a chair to look up to when I was starting.”
The event, which is produced by Red Bull, capitalizes on a simple, yet revolutionary idea — get as many people across 34 locations globally to start a race at the exact same time, and only finish the race when the last participant stops running.
There is no designed route and no finish line and the entire event raises money and awareness for Wings for Life’s goal — making spinal cord injuries curable.
The event, which will take place on May 8, is special to Fotheringham, and he’s encouraging all of his followers to sign up for Team Wheelz to join him during the run.
“I’m really excited to be a part of the race this year, and being an ambassador is a true honor,” Fotheringham said in a video introducing him as an ambassador. “I’m just excited to have all my friends and family get behind Team Wheelz and race for a cause.”
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