A stroke caused by an undiagnosed brain tumour changed Adrian Derbyshire’s life overnight, motivating him to launch a one-man campaign to tackle hate crime.
In the six years since then, Adrian has toured schools and colleges inspiring children and young people and educating them about the dangers of hate crime.
‘Since I became disabled myself I have had abuse in the street and I’ve had my house broken into because I was perceived as an easy target,’ he said.
A former sports therapist and personal trainer, he now uses a wheelchair to get about and has embraced disabled sports. He has won medals at the top level of wheelchair fencing and was set to represent Great Britain in the 2012 paralympics before being sidelined by an injury. He also carried the Olympic torch.
‘I want to spread positivity about disability,’ he said.
‘And I want to inspire our youth, promoting health and well-being by speaking to 50,000 children this year. That is my target.’
He plans to use his hand cycle to ride the equivalent of a marathon each day and has already completed a lap of the TT course, to publicise his visit and his message. With the help of the TT Marshals’ Association who provided an escort, he completed the circuit in one hour and 51 minutes.
During his visit to the Isle of Man he visited Castle Rushen High School and QEII in Peel but he hopes to return in the autumn and visit more.
‘I have been talking about what a hate crime is and what we can do to stop it. I take the hand cycle down to the school and I get them to hold my medals and the Olympic torch and it’s amazing what they tell me about self harm, stigma and being bullied.’
Adrian said he was also planning to meet Michelle Alker whose daughter Caitlin committed suicide in 2012 after a campaign of bullying targeted her on social media.
Celebrating his 40th birthday while in the island, he said it was something of a milestone for someone who six years ago was given weeks to live.
‘I went to bed fit and healthy then woke up three days later in hospital where I stayed for nine months. I had to learn to talk and write again and although I can stand I can no-longer really walk. It certainly focuses the mind,’ he said.
What started out as a four-week campaign against hate crime centred on his home town of Warrington in Cheshire then snowballed: ‘Four weeks turned into months then my sponsors came on board as well as businesses, ITV, Channel Four.
He has a website and also a justgiving page where people can donate money to help fund his campaign. He also coaches both able- bodied and disabled children.
‘In fact, I’ve never been as busy as I have been since the brain haemorrhage,’ he said.
‘The coaching is good and it’s fantastic to see disabled and able-bodied children getting together through sport. I am also an ambassador for six charities and I met the Prime Minister recently.
‘The lap of the course was to help promote health and well being and inspire others as well as gaining publicity.’