In 2009 Dean Pitcher of Great Britain had a motorcycle accident and very nearly died.
“I was pronounced dead at the scene but managed to survive. Doctors told my parents I would be lucky to live. And if I did, it was likely I would be severely brain damaged due to a brain injury I sustained in the incident. I also broke my neck in three places and my back in five. I count myself lucky to only have sustained a spinal cord injury in one place, T10 incomplete,” says Dean.
“As time went on, I showed signs of recovering to the point where I came away being a paraplegic requiring use of a manual wheelchair. I went back to work in less than ten months.”
Dean took part in the Wings for Life World Run in both 2014 and 2015 at Silverstone, England, and has so far raised over £4,000 for Wings for Life’s single mission to find the cure for spinal cord injury.
Now it’s 2016 and with the new Wings for Life World Run fundraising platform, he’s looking to go all out when he takes part in Cambridge, UK, and raise £1,000.
Here’s how he does it …
What do you do to get people to sponsor you?
I tell them that when science finds the cure for spinal cord injury, people in my position will be able to walk again. Finding the cure would also mean we’d get back sensation below our line of injury, giving us back the ability to control our bladder or bowel. The cure would rescue us from the devastating effects of a spinal cord injury.
What inspired you to start fundraising for Wings for Life?
I heard about the Wings for Life World Run just one week before the first event in 2014. I was having tests at Stoke Mandeville National Spinal Injuries Centre, and I had bumped into a friend. He had entered for the race at Silverstone and told me all about it. He was so excited about being able to help to find a cure "for us lot". I couldn't register quickly enough, and made a start on getting friends and family to sponsor me.
I started out with a fundraising target of £100, which I never thought I'd reach, but after telling the company I work for, they were kind enough to run a story about my participation in the Wings for Life World Run on our intranet page, and I soon went way over my target.
I was astonished by how generous my colleagues were, and it wasn't long before I had £2,000 pledged for me to take part in the event. I was extremely proud, and it gave me the extra drive to push through "the wall" when I hit it.
How do people react when you ask them to sponsor you?
Initially, they’re shocked that we're still looking for the cure for spinal cord injury. On hearing this, people are more than happy to pledge money, knowing that 100% of their donation goes directly to spinal cord research that is looking for the cure.
They love that I get to take part in my wheelchair alongside thousands of other runners and wheelchair users worldwide, all being part of it at the same time.
How can people pledge money to you?
The last two years, I used a generic online fundraising platform, but now Wings for Life World Run has their own fundraising platform. So I now have my own fundraising campaign. Anyone can set one up, whether they are taking part in the race or not, and the aim is to raise as much money as possible – in any way possible – for Wings for Life, so they can carry on doing the amazing work they’re doing in funding spinal cord research.
What are the silliest things you’ve heard people do to raise money for charity?
I’ve heard of all kinds of daft things people have done to raise money for charity: sky diving, eating piles of Brussel sprouts in a fixed time, even men having their legs or chest waxed!
Now, I guess when I think about it, it's pretty bonkers to be racing the Catcher Car in my wheelchair and pushing for 11 kilometres before being caught. But knowing that my taking part in the Wings for Life World Run helps scientists get closer to a cure would push me all day and all night.
Where will you participate in the Wings for Life World Run on May 8 and how far do you hope to go before the Catcher Car closes in?
In Cambridge in the UK, and hopefully I’ll get to 11km before David Coulthard passes me. My wife, Laura, and our 2-year-old daughter, Emmie, will be there to support me, and so will my parents, Linda and Dave, my brother, Scott, and his girlfriend, Nikki. Having them there will give me that extra little push of encouragement to go "that bit further".
Wings for Life is a not-for-profit foundation with a single mission: to find the cure for spinal cord injury by funding cutting-edge research.
Pauly Plewa, Niagara Falls, 2015
Catcher Car driver, Adolfo Aguilar in Lima, Peru
Lemawork Ketema, Global Champion 2014 and 2015
Natalie Hilton, participant 2015
Brooke Thabit, Wings for Life World Run ambassador