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Monday, March 30, 2015

How it all started

I was about 15 years old and I spent my days on Youtube watching videos of Ryan Sheckler and skateboarding tutorials. I knew my dream of becoming a skateboarder would never come true: I have Cerebral Palsy. I can barely walk on crutches but I had always wanted to skate. I dragged myself around everyday with the help of my crutches or a walker, then I closed my eyes and imagined my life without a disability and with a board under my feet.

Around that time, I got my first wheelchair. I can't walk for a long distance and whenever we had a lot to walk I was pushed around in a baby buggy. I was 15 years old. I didn't like the fact that I couldn't decide where I wanted to go, but walking was so exhausting that I really needed to sit down every once in a while. One day my physical therapy asked me if I would like to get a wheelchair to replace the baby buggy, since I wasn't a baby anymore. I agreed, so she told my family about it. It was not easy for them, because they saw the wheelchair as something “very disabled” people use, and they didn't see me that way. That is why I didn't use the chair much in the first year. I did not insist on using the chair more often because I thought walking was tiring but still less limiting.

I was trying to learn German, so I started looking for German movies online and I decided to watch one. One of the main characters was a kid on a wheelchair. I always read the names of the actors after watching a movie. One of those names caught my eye: Aaron Fotheringham, wheelchair stuntman. I wondered what a wheelchair stuntman could do, so I googled his name. The first results were YouTube videos, the titles were something like “Wheelchair in a skateboard park”. Needless to say I immediately pressed play. That was the moment that changed the way I see my disability. I couldn't take my eyes off of this kid shredding the park on his chair, with a motocross helmet on his head. At the end of the video, I was so happy I almost cried. It was possible, I could be a skater. Wheelchairs can be cool. In that moment, I knew I needed to talk to that guy. I found a contact form on his website and sent him an email. I told him how his videos opened the door to a whole new world for me, a world where dreams do come true. He replied the next day, and seeing his name in my inbox made me the happiest girl on the planet. There was someone telling me it was ok to have a disability, he was telling me there was nothing wrong with me and that the wheelchair was something to play with, it was not a bad thing. I found out he was not the only one hitting the skatepark on his chair, there was a whole team, a big family. I started dreaming about becoming a member of that family.

A few weeks later, Aaron told me he would be coming to Italy for a TV show. They were filming in Rome, a 6 hour drive from my town. Not close, but not as far as his hometown, Las Vegas. I begged my parents to take me there, I knew I had to meet that kid. It took me a long time and a lot of effort to persuade them, but they eventually agreed to drive me to Rome.
When I met him, I was blown away by what he could do on his chair. Even my parents were pretty impressed. We talked, played and had fun, and when I left Rome I knew everything was going to be ok, my dreams could come true and I could become the person I had always wanted to be. That was only the beginning: I could be independent and happy. My wheelchair was my favorite thing to play with. My disability was a blessing.

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