Winter Wonderwheels, powered by MARVEL, returned to Dorney Lake, Windsor on Sunday 3 December. Part of the Superhero Series – the UK’s only mass-participation sports series dedicated to people with disabilities – this year’s winter sporting event aims to encourage more people with disabilities to be more active, whilst spreading some festive magic and fun, with the help of some much-loved MARVEL characters and celebrities.
A recent report by Activity Alliance** shows that more than half the parents of UK children with disabilities feel they don’t have enough support to help their child be active. Furthermore, only 25% of children with disabilities claim to take part in sports and physical activities at school. This, combined with the cost-of-living crisis, makes access to events such as Winter Wonderwheels more important but also more challenging than ever.
In response, the Superhero Series has joined forces with schools and community groups to trial a ‘super schools initiative’ to remove barriers that can often prevent attendance at sporting events or outings of any kind. This initiative provides ‘Superhero’ pupils, their ‘Sidekick’ teachers and family members with fully funded places, accessible transport, adapted cycles where needed. Plus, each school had its very own team of volunteer ‘Sidekicks’, who supported them, and ensured they have a ‘super’ day out! This initiative, funded by the Super Partners and the Superhero Sports Foundation, follows on from a successful trial in the summer which superpowered 150 children to attend Superhero Tri powered by MARVEL.
The live event, open to ages one – 100+, is supported by its ‘At Home’ counterpart, a virtual event that is 100% accessible to anyone around the globe. The two events combined will see 2,200 Superheroes with their Sidekicks getting active and releasing their unique superpowers.
Getting into the Superhero festive spirit, celebrities also joined in the fun, but the focus of this event is not the celebrities – this is about the ‘Everyday Superheroes’ and their own incredible stories. Some of the Everyday Superheroes taking part in this year’s Winter Wonderwheels include:
- Harley (24) is an amputee with autism and OCD, who has transformed his life to cater for his differences and overcome many hurdles whilst remaining healthy and strong. A regular at the Superhero Series events, he has taken part in all events – Superhero Tri, Winter Wonderwheels and all the At Home events – and holds a Guinness World Record holder for the fastest 10K on a seated tri wheeled walking bike.
- Fearless Logan (15) from Swindon has a very rare gene deletion that he shares with his brother called XP22.11, which causes some challenges such as epilepsy. He is also partially sighted, non-verbal, sees the world in his own way partly because his senses are heightened and has difficulties learning. There are only 23 cases of his disability known world-wide.
- Eve (11) from Dorking, Surrey took her first ever independent steps at the Superhero Series launch event in 2016 at four years old. She is one of only fifty-four people in the world with her rare chromosome condition and four of them reunite every year at the Superhero Series events.
- Debbie (46) from Mytchett, Surrey became an amputee in 2015 after contracting Strep A. Her passion is playing Wheelchair rugby with the Berkshire Banshee team, who will all be alongside her for the 5km Winter Wonderwheels. As a military veteran, Deborah (56) from Gloucester helps other veterans to access mental health support and take up sport. Amongst other health challenges, she has rheumatoid arthritis, hypermobile EDS and PTSD. This year, she won a slot in a celebrity team at both Superhero Tri and Winter Wonderwheels with the help of her recumbent E trike and love of open water swimming and will be part of a Help for Heroes group attending Winter Wonderwheels.
Commenting on the series, Paralympian and Superhero Series founder Sophia Warner said: “When I retired from professional sport, I created the Superhero Series – sporting events designed especially for people with disabilities. As an elite athlete I was very fortunate to have access to a whole world of sporting opportunities. But everyday people with disabilities often struggle to find fun sports events to take part in. I wanted to create these events as I know how disheartening it is for participants to see fun run organisers clearing up an event before the last few have managed toto reach the finish line. I wanted to encourage as many people as possible to have the opportunity to be active and experience the joy of taking part in sporting events whilst having fun, regardless of their disabilities.”
Sara Hanson, Disney EMEA Director of Enterprise Social Responsibility, said: “We are incredibly proud of Marvel’s ongoing support of the series and that our storytelling and characters continue to be a force for good by inspiring a world of belonging while encouraging children and families to have fun and be active. I’m looking forward to encouraging everyone to find their power and achieving their personal goals on the day!”
*UK House of Commons disability statistics
**Annual Disability and Activity Survey 2022-23