A wheelchair may seem like a barrier for some people.
To Aaron Fotheringham, it means freedom, he told athletes, their families and others attending the 12th annual DisABILITY Sports Festival at Cal State San Bernardino. “My wheelchair has given me some pretty cool opportunities, and this one (being at the DisABILITY Sports Festival) is one of them.”
Though born with spina bifida, a condition in which his spinal cord did not develop properly leaving Fotheringham without the use of his legs, as a young boy he dreamed of being a professional action sports athlete, either a skater or bicycle motocross (BMX) rider. “But for obvious reasons,” he said, “I can’t ride a bike or a skateboard; my wheels are a little bit different.”
“My wheelchair has given me some pretty cool opportunities, and this one (being at the DisABILITY Sports Festival) is one of them,” Aaron Fotheringham told the participants at the DisABILTY Sports Festival. Photo: Corinne McCurdy/CSUSB
But he did become a professional action sports athlete on a ride with wheels that are a little bit different. Nicknamed “Wheelz,” Fotheringham is a four-time professional wheelchair motocross (WCMX) champion, and tours with Nitro Circus, “the gnarliest,” he said, group of action sports athletes on skateboards, bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles.
Fotheringham was the guest athlete at the festival, considered one of the largest events showcasing adaptive sports, held on Oct. 6 at CSUSB. Free for participants of all abilities,
ages 8 months to 84 years old, the festival drew an estimated 800 participants and their families, along with about 250 volunteers to assist them during the day.
“We believe in showing the importance of health and physical activity increasing the quality of life and providing learning opportunities while raising awareness for people living with disabilities in our community,” said Guillermo Escalante, one of the co-directors of the DisABILITY Sports Festival and a CSUSB assistant professor of kinesiology. “We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to realize that a disability is not an inability.”
And Dennis Powell, a Los Angeles Dodgers alumnus (he pitched for the team in the mid-1980s), was inspired by the participants. Officially opening the festival for the second consecutive year, he told them, “You inspire us. You motivate us. The only thing you have to do, like what Aaron told us, is never quit. Never quit. You have the ability. I believe in a God who does not make mistakes. Every last one of you has a purpose in your life. … Don’t let fear stop you. Don’t let that chair stop you. Don’t let anything stop you.”