Seven-year-old scales new heights

10.10.2018

A seven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has climbed Pen-y-Fan for the first time thanks to the support of several Swansea innovators including a team from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

CIC Pen y Fan

Imogen Ashwell-Lewis, from Caldicot, summited South Wales’ highest peak on Sunday (7 October) in a specially-modified four wheeled downhill mountain bike, designed and made predominantly for use by disabled people. The team at UWTSD’s Cerebra Innovation Centre then designed and built a bespoke new chair for Imogen enabling her to take part in the challenge.

The bike that Imogen used was created by Calvin Williams of Project ENDURO – a collaboration between experts at UWTSD, Gower College and Swansea University.  Project ENDURO kindly loaned the bike to Imogen for the climb and the designers at the Innovation Centre made the necessary modifications that gave Imogen the support she needed.

Imogen’s challenge aimed to raise awareness of the work of the charity Cerebra who work with families who have children with brain conditions. She was joined by around forty supporters – including staff from UWTSD, Specsavers staff, charity workers and even army soldiers – some of whom were harnessed to her to help pull and push her along.

Imogen’s mum, Catherine, says: “Imogen is so thrilled and excited to have completed this climb. It’s only thanks to the team at Cerebra that she’s been able to have this adventure - she’s never been able to do anything like this before because of her cerebral palsy. There have been so many times that she hasn’t been able to join in with physical activities which leaves her feeling left out. Being able to do things like this is a real boost to her confidence and self-esteem. She really is over the moon.”

The Pen y Fan challenge was co-organised by Cerebra and staff at Specsavers stores in South and Mid Wales, as part of their year-long partnership with the charity. The opticians are raising funds for the charity which has its headquarters in Carmarthen and currently supports 4,500 families across Wales.

In addition to its support services and research work, Cerebra also has an Innovation Centre which is a partnership with UWTSD and is based within the University’s ALEX building in Swansea.  The Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) is run by a small team of product designers offering a bespoke product design service for families. Although some equipment is available to buy, it often doesn’t look very nice or suit the requirements of some children. The Cerebra Innovation Centre develops logical, innovative and, above all, fun solutions. The team’s designs aim to reduce some of the social stigma attached to disabilities by making not only functional but also beautiful products for our amazing young people. Some of their products are ‘one-off’ bespoke designs, others are made in small batches and some are designed with the commercial market in mind.

The team at CIC first met Imogen a few years ago when they designed and made a beautiful tiny wheelchair that allowed her to move around her home and play with her brothers and her toys. The chair gave Imogen the additional independence she needed and a friendship soon developed between and her and the design team which has led to the birth of Team CIC.  They then went on to compete in the Swansea Triathlon alongside Imogen before supporting her in her latest challenge by reaching the summit of Pen-y-Fan.

“The event was amazing, everyone enjoyed helping and Imogen had the biggest smile!,” says Dr Ross Head who leads the team at CIC and who also took part in the event alongside Imogen.  “I came up with the idea to include Imogen on the walk whilst discussing a charity walk with Cerebra’s new partner, Specsavers.

“I had previously worked alongside Calvin Williams so I knew of his 4-wheeled ENDURO Mountain bike, and he very kindly allowed us to borrow it. With a few hectic days designing, developing and building a bespoke chair for Imogen, CIC were able to make it suitable for her ascent. We worked hard to ensure the event was safe whilst allowing Imogen to have an amazing experience. All we needed on the day was some serious muscle to march up the mountain!”

Neil Robinson, West Wales regional chair for Specsavers, also took part in the challenge and said: “Imogen and her family are an inspiration to us all, as are the services and support Cerebra provides to them and many other families across Wales. I’m incredibly proud that Specsavers staff have helped Imogen and the charity achieve something so special.

“We are thrilled to have been able to help raise awareness of the charity’s work, and hope it will lead to more young children with brain conditions discovering ways to live a better life with their families.”

Terry Osborn, acting Head of Corporates, Trusts and Legacies at Cerebra, added: “We’re delighted to have joined the Specsavers team for the Pen y Fan climb. To be able to take Imogen with is us was a privilege and really does demonstrate that we don’t believe there is any challenge that can’t be overcome.

“The invaluable fundraising support from Specsavers means that our Innovation Centre will be able to help more children to overcome their challenges and discover the world around them”.

Further Information

For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal Communications and PR Officer on 01267 676908 / 07449 998476 sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk