THE Westmorland Gazette this week launches the Wheels For Will Appeal to help a severely disabled former fell runner regain the freedom of his beloved Lakeland fells.

On July 7, Will Clark, 27, was part way through a charity bike ride in the Lakes when a freak accident at Thirlmere changed his life beyond recognition.

Will, an outdoor adventure graduate, was raising cash for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust - inspired by a young cousin who has the condition - when he was thrown from his bike.

The accident caused spinal damage so devastating, he was left paralysed from the shoulders down.

Since then Will - a keen competitor in the annual Grasmere Sports - has had to come to terms with the stark reality that as a tetraplegic he will never again be able to run on Lakeland fells.

But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Will’s disability does not mean he cannot regain some of the freedom he once enjoyed.

That’s why the Gazette is today launching an appeal to raise £25,000 to buy a specially adapted rough terrain quad bike which Will can operate by the use of an amazing hi-tech helmet using chin movements.

The Wheels for Will Appeal will run alongside and complement the Will Clark Fund, set up by a group of people in Grasmere to help support Will and enable him to live in the community where he grew up. Will is currently a patient in the Golden Jubilee Regional Spinal Cord Unit in Middlesbrough.

The fund’s aim is to raise cash to help adapt Will’s parents’ home to suit his special needs and to provide long-term help for him above and beyond that provided by welfare support.

But Will’s ultimate desire is to be able to once again roam freely among the fells he loves.

Adapted from a Swedish WoodStar design, the quad will be constructed in England by a Hull company. The design has already proved it can benefit tetraplegics by helping them travel off road completely independently.

Will’s quad will be specially built to suit his physique and needs - very much like a Formula 1 cars are built around the world’s top racing drivers.

Will, who studied outdoor recreation management at Sheffield Hallam University, told the Gazette: “I’ve spent most of my life walking or running on the fells, since I was first taken up above Grasmere in my dad’s rucksack when I was just a few months old. Now I sit in my wheelchair thinking this is what my life has become and that I’ll never be able to get back up there.”

Will’s mother Angela Clark, who runs Banerigg B&B in Grasmere with his dad Martin, said: “Dealing with the aftermath of the accident had been very, very hard. From being a little boy, Will has loved cycling, running and ski-ing. He needs to know he can get back on to the fells to regain something of his former life. The local community in Grasmere is helping to get him back home - it would be wonderful if Gazette readers can help him regain the freedom of the fells. It will mean so much to him.”

Spinal cord unit consultant Munawar Mecci endorsed the Wheels for Will Appeal.

“If Gazette readers can buy the quad, it will be a very good move. The psychological benefits of gaining this kind of freedom are clear. Being active promotes positive mental health through motivation and a sense of hopefulness while also helping to reduce anxiety, depression and self neglect.

“If Will gets his quad it will be a wonderful step forward.”

Will's former boss, Rothay Garden Hotel owner Chris Carss, who is chairman of the Will Clark Fund, said: “I'm delighted that the Gazette has homed in on Will’s mobility difficulties with Wheels for Will.

“A bespoke quad bike, will enable him to enjoy some freedom and independence, accessing the fells again, which not so many years ago would have been totally impossible for somebody with Will’s injuries.

“I commend the Gazette for taking this on as a campaign and particularly for supporting this modest young man as he wrestles with both the physical and mental barriers facing him in his new life.

“I hope the Gazette’s readers will support this campaign and make it the success required to improve Will’s shattered life.”

The Woodstar

  • It’s an off-road quad based on the Swedish WoodStar design and built to accommodate Will’s disability.
  • Will can operate it with his chin using a specially designed electronic helmet.
  • Adapted WoodStars are built in Hull by Cyclone Technologies.
  • The vehicle would be built from an existing WoodStar chassis with seating, suspension, engine and controls added to suit Will’s needs.
  • The £25,000 appeal target covers the machine cost of £18,000, plus £4,000 for the chin control system and £3,000 for a box trailer to transport the quad.

How you can help

  • Send your donation (cheques only) made payable to The Will Clark Fund, along with your name, address, contact telephone number and email address to: Wheels for Will, c/o Allan Tunningley, The Westmorland Gazette, 1 Wainwright’s Yard, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 4DP. Cheques should be marked on the back ‘Wheels for Will’.
  • Alternatively, you can donate via online banking or at a bank branch to the following account: Santander, P O Box 383, 21 Prescot Street, London, E1 8RP. Sort code: 09-01-28; Account number: 34788191; Account Name: The Will Clark Fund; Quote as reference: Wheels for Will.