Wheelchair Palooza 2023 offers community to disabled Utahns

Aug 18, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: Aug 22, 2023, 10:40 am

Participants at the 2023 Wheelchair Palooza, sponsored by Utah Adaptive Alliance....

Participants at the 2023 Wheelchair Palooza, sponsored by Utah Adaptive Alliance. (Michael Camit, KSL NewsRadio)

(Michael Camit, KSL NewsRadio)

AMERICAN FORK, Utah – Living in a wheelchair won’t seem ideal to a lot of people, but Wheelchair Palooza 2023, put on by Utah Adaptive Alliance, attempts to challenges the stigma.

Easy to feel alone

Amanda King’s birth defect means she’s lived her life in a wheelchair. Growing up, she had no idea other people like her were out there.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t know there were other people who used wheelchairs until I was six or seven.”

Now, she’s the president of the Utah Adaptive Alliance. Every year, the group holds its ‘Wheelchair Palooza,’ a volunteer wheelchair skating event that brings wheelchair users together.

Shared successes at Wheelchair Palooza

This year the palooza was at Greenwood Skate Park in American Fork. There, wheelchair users from around the state had the chance to share their stories, connect with support groups, and work the ramps and transitions of the park.

Whether it’s a spinal cord injury, Spina Bifida, or another condition, kids and adults alike zoomed across the park or just chatted it up. They were using three-wheeled chairs, stunt chairs, and one even rode around in a specialized sports trike.

Featured among the group was Aaron “Wheelz” Fotherningham. He’s a Nitro Circus athlete who performs amazing stunts from his wheelchair.

“I just basically started riding skateparks for the love of it,” he said. “I wasn’t really trying to inspire anyone.”

Still, several of the kids at the palooza are there to meet Wheelz.

“It’s really cool, this event today,” he said. “Just to see so many kids and adults coming out here … it’s really just seeing the wheelchair more as a bike or skateboard, that it can be something fun!”

Fotheringham’s story reflects one of the main goals of the Palooza.

“When we have kids, adults, or newly-injured people here at the same time,” King said, “they can see and meet people at different parts of their life, or levels of their recovery, and do a lot with them.”

At the very least, no matter the situation, those who attend the yearly palooza won’t feel alone.

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Wheelchair Palooza 2023 offers community to disabled Utahns