Thriving with Friedreich’s - Ataxia UK

Thriving with Friedreich’s

Post Published: November 9, 2022

Will Street has been a Friend and an amazing supporter of Ataxia UK for years. Some of you may know him through his company WillStreetTWF. We also wanted to extend a massive thank you to him and all the fantastic support and fundraising he’s provided through the sales of his electric wheelchair attachments. But, without further ado, let’s hear from Will as he tells us about his life journey in this article…

My name is Will Street. I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia when I was 13 years old. When I left school, I wasn’t sure what lay ahead. I didn’t want to go to college as I didn’t want to be different from others. I pretty much stayed at home and played on my PlayStation. I finally started using a wheelchair when I was 18. For those struggling with the idea of being a wheelchair user, please take it from me it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I wish that I had done it sooner. At that time, I couldn’t have imagined the things I would be able to achieve.

I have always been a bit of an entrepreneur. When I was 14, I wanted to buy a fishing boat and needed the funds, so I started selling sweets. I bought these at wholesale and sold them at school and enlisted the help of a couple of mates as I struggled to carry them all! Every day was a sell-out, so we expanded to chocolate and cans of drink, too. Even the teachers knew where to come for a pick-me-up. After about two years we had the funds to buy a boat and many hours were spent on the water with my mates.

After school finished my mobility was worsening so I didn’t go to college, but I was keen to start a business. One evening my parents went out and said: “Why don’t you setup a website for your business? We expect to see it finished when we get back”.  To their total surprise, it was! This was the start of I sold something I knew about and was passionate about – fishing tackle.  Money made from this enabled me to buy a sailing boat, which I raced as part of the British Sailing Team, and a van for my dad to drive all over Europe to Paralympic Sailing events.  Sailing took over my life for 10 years as I campaigned towards representing GBR at the Paralympics.

The business I run now is selling Electric Wheelchair Attachments. I brought one for my own use as I would rely on being pushed (it’s a coordination thing!). I was so impressed with the freedom and independence it gave me that I wanted to share this with others with disabilities. Other makes are prohibitively expensive but mine are from China and very affordable. I started selling them during lockdown and the business, (that’s Will Street Thriving With Friedreich’s), is going great.

I am really happy with the response from customers telling me about their new-found freedoms.  The business has inspired me as it means others are finding the freedom that I have. It was never about the money, but about helping others.

Nothing is off limits.

I travel a lot and post many videos of my adventures on my YouTube channel, WillSreetTWF. I love to travel and see the world and meet interesting people. I get help at the airports and onto the plane using an aisle chair to get to my seat. My motto is “Nothing is off limits”. The most difficult thing that I have faced is thinking that I can’t do it.

 I focus on what I can do and not what I can’t.

I am a really positive person but have found motivation harder since having Covid. I am now pushing myself physically and mentally, I am getting there but I can’t deny it has been a long journey.  I believe it is important to exercise regularly, or even daily. I give myself long-term targets but set smaller achievable goals along the way. I focus on what I can do and not what I can’t.

My friends and family describe me as motivated, happy and inspirational. I just get on with life and enjoy every minute. I have met many people through disabled sailing from all over the world and they motivate and inspire me. I have often visited them on holidays as well as being in competition with them on the water. It was a great community and although Sailing is no longer a Paralympic sport the memories and achievements motivated me to become a world champion.

What would I tell anyone that finds themselves in a similar situation to mine?

‘NOTHING IS OFF LIMITS’. Get yourself out there and make dreams come true. Set achievable goals and enjoy yourself.  Set the bar high and take steps towards achieving that goal. I wanted to win a gold medal, but sailing was removed from the Paralympics, so I modified it to become a World Champion, which I achieved one year later. I intend to keep moving that bar.

If I could achieve any goal in life, what would it be?

Stay positive and be happy.

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