Ashleigh Harris, 18, from Lydney, England, broke her back falling from a horse at the age of 14, and is now an ambassador for Back Up, the spinal injuries charity, after she trained with them to teach disabled youngsters to use wheelchairs. This year, she participated in a fashion show that has raised over £50,000. She appeared on the BBC charity fundraising programme Children in Need in 2015 and won the Inspirational Achievement for Young People Award at the Spinal Injuries Association Awards in 2016. She has briefly ridden a horse again a couple of years after her accident, after being lifted into the saddle, but she can no longer ride regularly.
Ashleigh was chosen to feature in Children in Need following her involvement with the charity Back Up, an organisation which helps thousands of disabled people regain independence and confidence after spinal injuries. It is the only UK charity with services dedicated especially to children and young people who are paralysed. Children in Need provides grants to UK projects which help disadvantaged children and teenagers, and Back Up is one of the organisations which benefits from this support.
Following her horse-riding accident in 2012, where she broke her back. Ashleigh says that she became very depressed, and overdosed and self-harmed. She returned home after 6 months in the hospital and a rehabilitation clinic, and her parents’ house was specially adapted for her, with an extension built and a bedroom being added downstairs. The family paid for all this work with a disability living grant, fundraising, and their own finances. In addition, Ashleigh has also just been awarded a very substantial sum in compensation from the owner of the horse, as a result of a court case.
Ashleigh first heard about Back Up in the hospital and decided to attend one of their residential courses. She says that the course was immensely helpful to her and since her involvement with the charity, she has trained to be a wheelchair skills instructor, to help other young people who are in similar situations.
Ashleigh took part in the Children in Need event to raise awareness of how Back Up has helped her and the support that is available for others. She says that as a result of her participation in their project, she now feels much more confident and independent, and more positive about the future. She is a member of her local wheelchair basketball team, travels, and has worked in London. “So much good has come out of a bad situation, thanks to Back Up. I want others to get that help too,” she says. (Quoted in www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk).
Back Up’s Under 18 Manager, Beth Scrimshaw, says that Ashleigh has a can-do attitude and lives life to the fullest. She demonstrates that although life with a spinal injury can be hard, with the right attitude and support, it can be very fulfilling.
Picture courtesy of www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk