04/01/2020

Meet Mark Rice

Mark and Lily Rice have made a formidable team

Mark Rice’s life has never been the same since daughter Lily tore up the script and made the impossible, possible.

But it wasn’t always straightforward for a man who initially struggled to come to terms with Lily’s disability and wheelchairs, as he explains in his Parasport story.

Before being introduced to wheelchair motocross (WCMX), I viewed a wheelchair as a negative. Inside, I felt at the time, that I had created a human who wasn’t quite “perfect”.

I wasn’t embarrassed, but there was inner turmoil of not knowing what to do, and having people asking what was wrong with your child.

We used to take Lily in her wheelchair around shopping centres and the like, she still walked to catch the bus to school but she couldn’t walk for long distances without needing the chair.

The change came at secondary school, other kids were quite independent and when you go, you suddenly feel all grown-up.

Lily didn't quite have that, she relied on the wheelchair more and she began to feel more disabled.

She had this big, cumbersome NHS chair which wasn't fun for her – but everything changed when she showed us a video of WCMX creator Aaron Fotheringham.

Lily pestered us to go and see him, wrote him a handwritten letter and then watched him in Llanelli. 

Later, when he was getting rid of his chair, he remembered Lily from the letter and that was that!

From the moment he sent it over, a lot changed for me. Suddenly, this chair looked like a BMX – and it became this really cool machine. It gave Lily an identity.

Instead of Lily being in a chair, it was her riding and being on her chair.  

She's not bound to it, it's hers to have and use how she wishes and that gave her a new injection of confidence. It looked cool – and that really helped.

My sporting background is in surfing, and skateboarding has always been closely affiliated so WCMX, to me, was really cool to be a part of – a culture of people trying out tricks and enjoying themselves.

It wasn't long before Lily advanced from a local skate park, which was quite basic, to the one in Haverfordwest which offered more.

She met new people and they championed her from the start. Regardless of disability, the tricks she did were amazing – and if it hadn't have been for them, she wouldn't have progressed so quickly. They're her skate park family and it's massive to her.

Since those first moments, Lily was competitive and that’s been so good for her. But it’s important to remember competition isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

You can have a dream and make it happen, which Lily does, and have a sport to be proud of, being part of a bigger community. 

But she reminds us that she’s a world champion who can do a backflip every time we ask her to do the washing-up!

There aren’t many people who do WCMX in the UK, which Lily and I want to change through her coaching and work in the community.

We've got some of the best skate parks in the world, but found accessibility stretched to a parking space and a toilet. That was something we needed to address – as a parent, I want to be able to drop my child off at a skatepark and for them to be independent.

The kids themselves have taken to it so much, and we’re seeing progress in them as well as Lily, which is lovely to watch.

They were in regular wheelchairs when they first started but we’ve been keen to break down the barriers to participation, which means being involved in the design of the chairs, which is a real confidence boost and something really important to both of us.

It's the smaller things that can make the biggest difference for people.

Lily is the next generation in WCMX and it’s fantastic to have females heavily involved in an action sport. She falls, she gets back up again, and that’s what she’s done throughout her entire life, one which I’m very proud of everyday.

Whatever your story, explore options to get active on the Parasport website