My 10K Wheelchair Roll for Charity

When I was sixteen, I decided to undertake one of the most physically challenging feats of my life: to push myself in my wheelchair for ten kilometres to help raise money for a school in Kenya.

The ten kilometres ‘Walk For Water’ is a fund-raising event that every student in my school had to participate in yearly. It was mandatory, so of course, it was often done with a lot of groaning and complaining from some of the students. Usually, I just did what almost everyone else did and got my parents to sponsor me five euros each. I then participated in the walk by doing half-an-hour of laps around the gym in my wheelchair while the rest of the school did the long, ten-kilometre trek outside.

One year, after I was finished doing my laps (which I still found quite challenging), I told one of my friends to stop complaining about having to do the walk – the whole reason that we were doing it was because children on the other side of the world were suffering and needed our help. “You wouldn’t know what it’s like, Simone,” she replied, “You don’t have to do the walk like we do. It’s really hard.” Her remark got me thinking: ten euros wasn’t much, and was I really challenging myself as much as I could? So, I decided to propose the idea of me doing the full 10K course with the rest of the school in my wheelchair. Once the idea was accepted, I was too stubborn to back down – and if you know me, you know that I love a challenge.

How I grip and ride my wheelchair

Pushing myself in my wheelchair is extremely difficult – I have to work thrice as hard to keep up with someone who is walking at a normal walking speed. And if there are subtle slants and dips in the pavement which the average walker wouldn’t notice – it could make the ride more difficult. Most people don’t realise it but the majority of pavements are made on a slight slant and are rarely ever straight. If a path is on a slant – I have to push myself one-handed to stay straight. Also, since my fingers don’t have a lot of movement in them, I can’t grip the rungs of my wheelchair so I have to push it along with the palms of my hands which makes it even harder.

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Training for the Walk

I had never gone as far as 10K before and I knew that it would be a tremendous challenge to complete. In preparation for the walk, I spent months training. I went out every day to do laps at the park by my house. I made sure to push myself on the tough, gravely path because I knew that if I trained on a difficult path – a smooth path would seem easy in comparison. I did five big laps every weekday and ten laps every Saturday and Sunday.

I sweat, screamed, and sprinkled my hands with bruises and blisters. Whenever I felt like stopping or giving up, I imagined falling behind the rest of the school as they did the Walk For Water and used it as motivation to thrust myself forwards. I worked my back and arm muscles like never before and kept pushing myself as far as I could go.

I had quite a few adventures while I was out and about too: people would often stop me and ask me what I was doing, or they told me about their incredibly interesting lives. I once almost jumped into a lake to escape a snarling, snapping dog while I was training, I had a huge spider fall onto me out of a tree, and sometimes I had to ask for help from others when my wheelchair became stuck or I fell out of it. One of my fondest memories from when I was out training, was when two children approached me. They asked me some questions, and then I let them push me for a little while – one handlebar each. They were so adorable, and both so happy to help me out by pushing my wheelchair for a bit. I hope that they were able to learn something from spending a little bit of time with me.

I also spent much more time trying to find sponsors – unlike my previous years doing the walk. I gave a talk about the walk at my local church and sought help from my family members. The result was incredible: I was sponsored around 550 euros for the charity – much more than my usual ten euros! I truly hoped that I would be able to complete the course and not let my sponsors, or the children at the school in Kenya, down.

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The Day of the Walk

On the day of the walk, I was tremendously nervous. I had so many hopes hanging off my ability to complete the 10K challenge. I truly wanted all of my months of training and every euro that I had raised to have been worthwhile. I wanted to do it for charity, but I also wanted to do it for every student that complained about having to walk the 10K, and to show everyone that I had no limits when I was determined to succeed.

Me doing the Walk For Water

The school placed me in the walking group that left first, so that if I fell behind, I could just join the group behind them (the groups each had ten minutes distance between them). My father also came to school to do the walk with me so that I could have some supervision if I had to fall back on my own. Even though I was allowed to fall behind, I made it a personal mission of mine to be able to keep up with the first group.

The walk went well at first. The path started out fairly smooth and straight so I could keep up with the others and conserve most of my energy for later on. Eventually, my father and I did fall behind on a long, difficult road. So I picked up the speed, and after half an hour, we were able to catch up with the others again. It was funny because the others were walking at a slow walking speed; slow enough for everyone to be able to talk with their friends and play games with each other – but I was sweating and huffing and puffing next to them, working like crazy just to keep up. Due to parental instinct, sometimes my father started pushing my wheelchair when he saw that I was really struggling, but I instantly stopped and threw my brakes on if he did – I was determined to do the whole thing on my own without help.

The two hardest parts were when we went along an extremely long walking path that went alongside a motorway (highway). It seemed to go on forever with no end – that’s when I came the closest to giving up. But I kept going, muscles screaming, mind focused on one thing – making it to the end and not letting my sponsors down. I simply shut my mind off and focused on the rhythmic movements of pushing my wheelchair. If I hadn’t, I don’t know how I would have been able to push through.

Me during the Walk for Water

The other hardest part was at the very end: to make the course ten kilometres long, we had to do two laps around the school’s sports track. The sports track is an all-weather-field, so it is covered in sand which is a nightmare to push wheelchairs through. I was relieved that I had trained on a rough terrain because that track was one of the toughest that I’d ever pushed myself on, and after doing hours of the walk already, I needed every ounce of strength left in me to complete it. Luckily, the track was near the school so there were many students and teachers there who helped me by cheering me on.

But I made it in the end! I was absolutely ebullient and relieved – I’d never done something so physically challenging in all the sixteen years of my life. But now I knew that I could push myself past limits that I had never thought possible if I was focused and determined enough. As soon as I got home from the walk, I had a hot shower and completely scrubbed myself down. My hands were covered in bruises and blisters and I had dirt caked deep in-between my fingernails. I needed more than one full day of rest to recover, but I was still so happy – I had made it!

At a school assembly, the headteacher mentioned me and the challenge that I had taken on. They said that I had done something that was harder than anyone else that year and that I had raised the most amount of money for the charity! 550 euros was more than some class totals put together. Because I raised the most, I was rewarded with a free lunch with a plus one at the pancake restaurant next door to the school. Most of all, I was ecstatic about being able to achieve something like this and to have helped out the charity so much. I have to give a lot of credit to my local church for helping me to raise most of the money, and to my friend who unknowingly pushed me to aim higher. I hope that in the future I can keep doing what I can for charities, especially disability charities, so that I can continue to make a difference.

That’s it from me – thank you so much for reading! If you like my blog, please share it with others. See you next week!

j

Image Citation: https://www.walkforwatersg.org/?lightbox=dataItem-j11o4sxc6

Published by thewheelchairteen

I am a black, disabled teenager living in the Netherlands, book nerd and film fanatic. I love blogging about my own crazy life and expressing my opinions about the society around me :)

34 thoughts on “My 10K Wheelchair Roll for Charity

    1. Thank you! I’m glad that you enjoyed it 🙂 Yes, I was wearing bicycle gloves while I did the walk. Usually they’re enough to keep me protected, but since I was doing so much riding, I ended up with a few blisters anyway. The damage would have been much worse if I wasn’t wearing them, though. Thanks for commenting! ❤

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  1. Wow! That is amazing! I don’t think I ever wheeled 10 km, and certainly not on rough terrain.

    I do like to go out biking with my handbike, though, and the most I’ve been able to do on a day was some 50 km. I was completely knackered after I did that.

    I was wondering about your pushrims, though. I see you have ordinary ones. I have the Maxgrepp ergo pushrims, which are often used by people with reduced hand function. I don’t know if they would help you? Maybe something to discuss/try out with your occupational therapist?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was really difficult. Wow, handbikes are hard too – and 50 km is really far! I can imagine why you were knackered. Yes, I definitley need to get different pushrims. The ones that I have at the moment are really bad. I didn’t know that there were ones specially-made for those with reduced hand function though. I’ll bring that up with my occupational therapist the next time that we speak. Thanks 🙂

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  2. What an amazing story! You are so talented the way you describe every detail never becoming boring or difficult to read. You draw people in, Simone, and you do inspire. I love your blog and cannot wait for more stories. My father would have loved you.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. This comment truly made my day – it made me quite emotional. I’m so happy that you liked my writing and that you think that I draw people in and inspire them; that’s the whole reason that I started this blog and it’s all I ever wanted to do with it. What an incredible compliment, your father was an amazing man so I would have loved to have met him too.

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    1. Thank you so much! ❤ I am actually planning to write a book about my life. I've written a little bit of it already but I'm wondering whether I should write it now or wait until I've achieved more in my life. After all, I'm still just a teen 🙂 Thank you so much for commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope you will write a book now, then write another memoir in the future. Your story and your writing skills are so amazing, you could write a whole series of memoirs and I would never get tired of reading them.

        My grandchildren are older than you are. I have been an avid reader for over sixty years. I’ve read hundreds, probably thousands of books in my lifetime, so I know good writing when I see it. Your writing is wonderful. You deserve to be famous! ❤❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’ve inspired me to want to write now. Thank you so much. It’s incredible feedback to recieve that you think that my writing is wonderful after all of those years of reading. I’m at a loss for words. I just hope that my story will be able to show people the unique perspective of a disabled, black teenager. ❤

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  3. Wow, well done!! Your training really paid off, and it sounds like you prepared way more than your ablebodied classmates. It’s nice that during your training people approached you (as long as it’s in a nice way!!), such as those two children. I love that you included pictures and a video of you doing the Walk for Water. And you collected a lot of money for charity! The sand path and other roads with uneven pavement, sound difficult for a wheel chair user. That’s not something most ablebodied people think about, I think. Maybe it taught your classmates something. Anyway, I’m proud of you for working hard at your goal and meeting it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 Yes, I was so happy that the training paid off, and I had a lot of fun meeting people in my travels. Until I had to start using a wheelchair permanently, I also didn’t realise how impactful slanted pavements could be. Pavements can affect entire holidays for me – some countries just have thinner streets and more cobblestoned pavements than others (like Paris). It’s hard to enjoy holidays in countries with difficult pavements because, everywhere that we go, my wheelchair rattles and moves a lot and shakes me violently which is extremely uncomfortable. No matter how beautiful the country, I sometimes wish that I could go home just so that I can ride on smooth ground again. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! ❤

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  4. I am so proud of you! You are a pleasure to know and a wonderful inspiration to so many who would have given up at the first hurdle. Your story really made me think of my own experiences with canoeing, when I led my team, no matter what. That feeling that comes with doing and being the best, no matter what was meant to hold us down. I too can remember how my hands were blistered and my pain sites were like nothing on earth, but that didn’t stop me from powering forward. Keep being you, you’re incredible xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I didn’t know that you used to canoe! You sound like the ideal leader – determined, focused, and refusing to quit. You must have been a force to be reckoned with out on the water. Team sports are great too – that sense of community and partnership are great incentives to keep going no matter what. Thank you so much ❤

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