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Brynn breaks down barriers

by Promote Shetland -

While many teenagers wrestled with boredom and probably spent one too many hours watching YouTube during lockdown, one young Shetland man set himself a challenge. Fifteen-year-old Brynn Hauxwell from Mid Yell decided to push himself 1,679 miles – the equivalent of Shetland’s coastline – in his wheelchair to raise money for Ability Shetland.

Brynn, who has a range of debilitating mobility issues, originally planned to complete the Hadrian’s Wall Cycle route by wheelchair. But, because of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions and his need to shield due to severe asthma, he decided to set himself an alternative challenge instead.

“We had to think of what we could achieve if we were unable to go past our garden gate,” says Brynn’s mum Kim. “We ordered Brynn an Invictus Active Trainer, which is like a manual treadmill on rollers to keep him active during lockdown. Brynn’s initial idea was to push himself the length of Shetland, but he realised that it wouldn’t take him too long to complete it and wanted to do something that would last throughout lockdown. So, he decided he wanted to push himself virtually the full 1,679 miles of Shetland's coastline.”

As mentioned, Brynn is doing the challenge for Ability Shetland, an organisation close to his heart. The charity supports people all over Shetland, including providing children’s clubs, sports clubs, boat trips and the use of adapted equipment for locals and visitors to use to explore what Shetland has to offer. Last year Brynn was able to try one of Ability Shetland’s all-terrain trikes, which changed not only his life but his whole family’s lives, too.

We were able to access so many parts of Shetland that many people take for granted… walking the hills, going along the beach or just getting around the local community

Ability Shetland let Brynn use one of their trikes to complete a gruelling 20km all-terrain challenge in October 2019. He travelled around some of Shetland’s tougher terrains at St Ninians Isle and Fethaland to raise funds to buy his own active wheelchair. Now, he wants to say thank you and give back to the community by fundraising for the local charity.

“If it wasn’t for Ability Shetland we would not be where we are now,” says Kim.

Exercising grit and determination, Brynn is now a fantastic 1,111 miles into his challenge, with just 568 miles to go. Having started the challenge virtually, indoors, during lockdown on his Invictus Active Trainer, he’s now back outdoors and embracing the elements.

“After 98 days of shielding in our home and garden, we were finally told that it was safe enough to be able to go and exercise outside locally again,” says Brynn. “We all went straight to our local beach. Just the feeling of being outside in the open again with the sounds and smells of Shetland surrounding us was incredible.

“Since that day we have been staying local and have made great use of the OS Map app to discover a lot more places from our doorstep and also more local wildlife, such as otters, hedgehogs and frogs, along with all the wonderful visiting birds – Oystercatchers, Tirricks, Shags and Curlews.”

Along the way, Brynn and family have had the support of the local Shetland community, who have not only pledged donations but also turned out to cheer him along the way.

“A friendly wave from a car, toot of the horn or a cheery hello always puts a smile on our faces,” says Kim. “Brynn’s friend Harrison has joined us doing 10 miles on some evenings to keep Brynn going when he really needed it.

“The wider Shetland community and also supporters from all around the world have been following on social media, sending messages of support and kindly donating to Brynn’s JustGiving page for Ability Shetland.

"The local company LHD Marine Supplies have also been amazing and reached out to Brynn to help keep him kitted out for whatever weather Shetland throws at him!

"This is what Shetland is all about though isn’t it? That team spirit.”

As well as Brynn’s amazing challenge, the Hauxwell family – Brynn, mum Kim and sister Faith – are also GetOutside OS Champions. Their role as ambassadors for Ordnance Survey is to encourage others to get outside and enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer both physically and mentally.

“It gives us the perfect opportunity to continue to do what we already love doing, getting outside, sharing our story and encouraging others to do the same responsibly. But now we have the privilege to do it as part of an amazing, enthusiastic team,” says Kim.

The family are gearing up for Sunday 27 September – National GetOutside Day and encouraging everyone to get outdoors and connect with nature, whether it’s to sit in the garden, go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, a wild swim, a climb or a paddle board. You can pledge to get involved and sign up on the GetOutside website.

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