independent

Saturday 17 August 2019

YOUR lives

Wexford woman Edel Reck is 43 years old and uses a wheelchair to get around. Yet she has done more and seen more in her life than most people whose legs can carry them.

LAST WEEK, she appeared on RTE television taking part in an adaptive mountain biking challenge in the Rockies in Colorado.

What's more, the six-part television series 'Two for the Road, produced by independent company Yellow Asylum Films, was actually her idea.

Each week, the programme features a well-known person and a disabled companion embarking on an exciting challenge.

The tasks include tall ship sailing in the Canaries, para-rallying in the UK and horse-back riding in Mexico.

The able-bodied participants have to operate under the same restrictions as the disabled candidates, in an effort to understand life from their perspective.

Edel hopes the programme will help to change limiting attitudes towards the disabled.

'Those of us who have a disability, can do and want to do most things just like everyone else but sometimes we just do them in a different way. And there is always a way,' she said.

Accompanying the TV series is a book of the same name written by Donal O' Donoghue, a features editor with the RTE Guide, and published by Ashfield Press. It is now available in bookshops around the country.

The idea for the book came first after Edel and Donal, went skiing on Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, USA in 2002.

The pair had met five years earlier when Edel, a former National Youth Officer with the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Ireland, led a group on a sailing expedition in the specially-adapted Lord Nelson ship.

The journalist Donal was reporting on a documentary being made about the trip.

They met up again on Loon Mountain where Edel persuaded him to try the adaptive skiing equipment.

He recalled the experience as being 'terrifying, exhilarating and utterly confusing all at the same time.'

A few weeks later, Edel rang him with a suggestion. What about a book chronicling a series of adventures in which a physically disabled person and an ablebodied person embark on a challenge together?.

Along the way, Edel's ambition grew to include a TV series.

RTE initially turned down the proposal saying it was cost-prohibitive but when Yellow Asylum got involved, Steve Carson, the new director of television for RTE, gave it his approval last year.

Edel had contacted Yellow Asylum after seeing a documentary they did on suicide and got in touch with Ashfield Press because it was the first publisher listed in the Golden Pages.

'They were the first ones I rang and they were very positive,' she said.

She approached different celebrities over the years including Colin Farrell and Amnanda Brunker who agreed to do the challenge but as time wore on, their schedules changed and they couldn't participate.

After Edel tried unsuccessfully to contact Hollywood actor Farrell, Donal managed to obtain an email address for his PA.

Edel sent a message and received an email reply from Farrell personally within 24 hours. That was March 2010 and they have been in regular contact since then.

'Every few weeks I would get an email out of the blue asking me how things are going,' she said.

Farrell also agreed to write the foreword for the book.

When Amanda Brunker was unable to make it, she recommeded Mr. World, Kamal Ibrahim, from Limerick who was Edel's able-bodied companion in the Rockies.

'He's a really nice guy and gorgeous as well,' she said.

'He was really affected by the experience. They strapped his legs up so he couldn't use them. At one point, he was trying to get from a chair onto a bed and he found it so difficult, he almost broke down.'

Another participant was the former Fianna Fail TD, Sean Connick who was teamed with the snooker legend Ken Doherty.

Rally enthusiast Sean went para-rallying with Doherty shortly after losing his seat in the last General Election.

'He said afterwards that it was perfect timing for him,' said Edel.

Morning Ireland presenter Aine Lawlor agreed to go skiing in France with David Proud, the disabled actor who has appeared in Eastenders.

Accordion player Sharon Shannon and comedienne Maeve Higgins also accepted the challenge.

Meanwhile, Edel has taken the broadcasting of 'Two for the Road' and the release of the book in her stride.

'I was nervous about seeing myself on television but I think it took so long to come to fruition that I'm not really that excited about it all which is strange,' she said.

In any event, adventure is nothing new to the Wexford woman who was born with Spina Bifida.

Despite being a wheelchair user since her early teens, Edel has indulged a love of travel and enjoyed adventure sports in exotic locations all over the world.

She has hot-air ballooned over the Andes; whitewater rafted in the Grand Canyon; gone horse-riding in the Mohave Desert; sailed in the Caribbean; climbed to the top of Macchu Picchu in Peru and been on safari in Kruger National Park.

'I have been lucky enough to do things that many able-bodied people can only dream of,' she said.

'I do these things for the fun and the challenge and to see how I'll get on.'

'I always believed that there is no such thing as the impossible.'

A receptionist with Wexford County Council, she is a former participant in the New York Games for the Physically Challenged, having previously competed with the Irish Wheelchair Association in javelin,

discus and shot putt.

Going to New York for the first time opened up a whole new world to her.

'After New York, there was no stopping me. I was bitten by the travel bug.

For many years, her passion has been travelling to major athletics events around the world and she has a knack of meeting top sports stars when she gets there.

At the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991, she bumped into the British sprinter Roger Black.

'He bought me coffee, we had a chat and have kept in contact ever since.'

She was in Gothenburg in 1995 when Sonia O' Sullivan won gold in the 5,000m.

In the previous final, there had been a media storm when O'Sullivan did not carry the Irish flag.

Edel Reck's tricolour saved the day. 'I was going crazy in the stand when Sonia won and a press photographer ran over to me and asked me for my Irish flag because Sonia didn't have one.'

'So Sonia was carrying my flag for all those press photographs that went around the world.'

She has attended the World Championships in Athens as well as the Sydney Olympics.

She chatted to Carl Lewis who gave her a signed tee-shirt.

Linford Christie gave her a signed singlet and at the world games in Athens in 1997, Mic hael Johnson gave her his gold shoes.

'He just walked over and said - would you care to have these mam.'

And in Athens in 2004, Mark Spitz, the swimmer bought her lunch. He happened to be staying in the same hotel as Edel.

'People remember me because of my wheelchair. You have thousands of spectators but not that many in wheelchairs.'

Of all the places she has travelled to, Australia which she visited three times, is her favourite.

'I'd live there in the morning if I could. The people have a real can do attitude.'

There are also better opportunities there for people with disabilities, she b elieves.

Ireland has improved in that regard but there is still a long way to go in her view.

'Access has improved, particularly in Wexford. When I was younger, you would have to ring in advance before going to a pub or nightclub to make sure there was someone at the door to help you in and you'd nearly have to make an appointment to go to the toilet.'

While she may have been disheartened by such obstacles, she never let them stand in her way.

Edel Reck was born with Spina Bifida but she also came into the world with a steely streak of determination that made her refuse to accept barriers.

Growing up with her parents and older brother Des on the Newline Road, she attended school in Kennedy park and the Presentation secondary.

She did feel isolated at times when her peers were running around in the playground. She also spent a considerable amount of time in hospital during her childhood.

'The other children weren't nasty but I did feel left out. I used to get upset at times but I didn't let anybody see that.'

She objected when an attempt was made to place her in sheltered employment for a work experience programme.

She went to Wexford County Council instead and has worked with the local authority ever since.

The launch of 'Two for the Road' took place in the new County Council headquarters at Carricklawn last week and was sponsored by the local authority and Whites Hotel which provided courtesy rooms for her guests, including Mr. World; the CEO of Disability Federation Ireland John Dolan and Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay.

Edel was nervous about being the centre of attention at the event. Despite being the inspiration for a reality TV programme, she is shy and doesn't really feel comfortable in the limelight.

The quality that has served her most successfully in her life is that she doesn's focus on the differences between her and other people.

'I don't see myself as different from anyone else. I just get on with it.'

'The disability is part of who I am but it isn't all of who I am.'

She hopes that the programme will encourage others to adopt the same perspective - to see the person first and not the wheelchair.

'I hope it will take the dis out of disability,' she said. LAST WEEK, she appeared on RTE television taking part in an adaptive mountain biking challenge in the Rockies in Colorado.

What's more, the six-part television series 'Two for the Road, produced by independent company Yellow Asylum Films, was actually her idea.

Each week, the programme features a well-known person and a disabled companion embarking on an exciting challenge.

The tasks include tall ship sailing in the Canaries, para-rallying in the UK and horse-back riding in Mexico.

The able-bodied participants have to operate under the same restrictions as the disabled candidates, in an effort to understand life from their perspective.

Edel hopes the programme will help to change limiting attitudes towards the disabled.

'Those of us who have a disability, can do and want to do most things just like everyone else but sometimes we just do them in a different way. And there is always a way,' she said.

Accompanying the TV series is a book of the same name written by Donal O' Donoghue, a features editor with the RTE Guide, and published by Ashfield Press. It is now available in bookshops around the country.

The idea for the book came first after Edel and Donal, went skiing on Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, USA in 2002.

The pair had met five years earlier when Edel, a former National Youth Officer with the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Ireland, led a group on a sailing expedition in the specially-adapted Lord Nelson ship.

The journalist Donal was reporting on a documentary being made about the trip.

They met up again on Loon Mountain where Edel persuaded him to try the adaptive skiing equipment.

He recalled the experience as being 'terrifying, exhilarating and utterly confusing all at the same time.'

A few weeks later, Edel rang him with a suggestion. What about a book chronicling a series of adventures in which a physically disabled person and an ablebodied person embark on a challenge together?.

Along the way, Edel's ambition grew to include a TV series.

RTE initially turned down the proposal saying it was cost-prohibitive but when Yellow Asylum got involved, Steve Carson, the new director of television for RTE, gave it his approval last year.

Edel had contacted Yellow Asylum after seeing a documentary they did on suicide and got in touch with Ashfield Press because it was the first publisher listed in the Golden Pages.

'They were the first ones I rang and they were very positive,' she said.

She approached different celebrities over the years including Colin Farrell and Amnanda Brunker who agreed to do the challenge but as time wore on, their schedules changed and they couldn't participate.

After Edel tried unsuccessfully to contact Hollywood actor Farrell, Donal managed to obtain an email address for his PA.

Edel sent a message and received an email reply from Farrell personally within 24 hours. That was March 2010 and they have been in regular contact since then.

'Every few weeks I would get an email out of the blue asking me how things are going,' she said.

Farrell also agreed to write the foreword for the book.

When Amanda Brunker was unable to make it, she recommeded Mr. World, Kamal Ibrahim, from Limerick who was Edel's able-bodied companion in the Rockies.

'He's a really nice guy and gorgeous as well,' she said.

'He was really affected by the experience. They strapped his legs up so he couldn't use them. At one point, he was trying to get from a chair onto a bed and he found it so difficult, he almost broke down.'

Another participant was the former Fianna Fail TD, Sean Connick who was teamed with the snooker legend Ken Doherty.

Rally enthusiast Sean went para-rallying with Doherty shortly after losing his seat in the last General Election.

'He said afterwards that it was perfect timing for him,' said Edel.

Morning Ireland presenter Aine Lawlor agreed to go skiing in France with David Proud, the disabled actor who has appeared in Eastenders.

Accordion player Sharon Shannon and comedienne Maeve Higgins also accepted the challenge.

Meanwhile, Edel has taken the broadcasting of 'Two for the Road' and the release of the book in her stride.

'I was nervous about seeing myself on television but I think it took so long to come to fruition that I'm not really that excited about it all which is strange,' she said.

In any event, adventure is nothing new to the Wexford woman who was born with Spina Bifida.

Despite being a wheelchair user since her early teens, Edel has indulged a love of travel and enjoyed adventure sports in exotic locations all over the world.

She has hot-air ballooned over the Andes; whitewater rafted in the Grand Canyon; gone horse-riding in the Mohave Desert; sailed in the Caribbean; climbed to the top of Macchu Picchu in Peru and been on safari in Kruger National Park.

'I have been lucky enough to do things that many able-bodied people can only dream of,' she said.

'I do these things for the fun and the challenge and to see how I'll get on.'

'I always believed that there is no such thing as the impossible.'

A receptionist with Wexford County Council, she is a former participant in the New York Games for the Physically Challenged, having previously competed with the Irish Wheelchair Association in javelin,

discus and shot putt.

Going to New York for the first time opened up a whole new world to her.

'After New York, there was no stopping me. I was bitten by the travel bug.

For many years, her passion has been travelling to major athletics events around the world and she has a knack of meeting top sports stars when she gets there.

At the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991, she bumped into the British sprinter Roger Black.

'He bought me coffee, we had a chat and have kept in contact ever since.'

She was in Gothenburg in 1995 when Sonia O' Sullivan won gold in the 5,000m.

In the previous final, there had been a media storm when O'Sullivan did not carry the Irish flag.

Edel Reck's tricolour saved the day. 'I was going crazy in the stand when Sonia won and a press photographer ran over to me and asked me for my Irish flag because Sonia didn't have one.'

'So Sonia was carrying my flag for all those press photographs that went around the world.'

She has attended the World Championships in Athens as well as the Sydney Olympics.

She chatted to Carl Lewis who gave her a signed tee-shirt.

Linford Christie gave her a signed singlet and at the world games in Athens in 1997, Mic hael Johnson gave her his gold shoes.

'He just walked over and said - would you care to have these mam.'

And in Athens in 2004, Mark Spitz, the swimmer bought her lunch. He happened to be staying in the same hotel as Edel.

'People remember me because of my wheelchair. You have thousands of spectators but not that many in wheelchairs.'

Of all the places she has travelled to, Australia which she visited three times, is her favourite.

'I'd live there in the morning if I could. The people have a real can do attitude.'

There are also better opportunities there for people with disabilities, she b elieves.

Ireland has improved in that regard but there is still a long way to go in her view.

'Access has improved, particularly in Wexford. When I was younger, you would have to ring in advance before going to a pub or nightclub to make sure there was someone at the door to help you in and you'd nearly have to make an appointment to go to the toilet.'

While she may have been disheartened by such obstacles, she never let them stand in her way.

Edel Reck was born with Spina Bifida but she also came into the world with a steely streak of determination that made her refuse to accept barriers.

Growing up with her parents and older brother Des on the Newline Road, she attended school in Kennedy park and the Presentation secondary.

She did feel isolated at times when her peers were running around in the playground. She also spent a considerable amount of time in hospital during her childhood.

'The other children weren't nasty but I did feel left out. I used to get upset at times but I didn't let anybody see that.'

She objected when an attempt was made to place her in sheltered employment for a work experience programme.

She went to Wexford County Council instead and has worked with the local authority ever since.

The launch of 'Two for the Road' took place in the new County Council headquarters at Carricklawn last week and was sponsored by the local authority and Whites Hotel which provided courtesy rooms for her guests, including Mr. World; the CEO of Disability Federation Ireland John Dolan and Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay.

Edel was nervous about being the centre of attention at the event. Despite being the inspiration for a reality TV programme, she is shy and doesn't really feel comfortable in the limelight.

The quality that has served her most successfully in her life is that she doesn's focus on the differences between her and other people.

'I don't see myself as different from anyone else. I just get on with it.'

'The disability is part of who I am but it isn't all of who I am.'

She hopes that the programme will encourage others to adopt the same perspective - to see the person first and not the wheelchair.

'I hope it will take the dis out of disability,' she said.

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