The Award changed my life

Gold Award holder Spencer Aston explains how the Award helped to rehabilitate him following a severe car crash. 

When I was nearly 15, I was involved in a serious road crash. I barely survived and was left with a severe brain injury and other major disabilities.

Due to my long period in rehabilitation, I lost many of my friends, I was unable to continue my education and could see that my previous life had disappeared. I thought my active life was over. I had already achieved the Bronze Award and had completed all but the Silver expedition as a fit, healthy and, if I may say, attractive young man. I wanted to feel normal again and to feel that I had a purpose. I wanted to be part of a group with similar goals. I thought this would be impossible due to all my problems. I was wrong.

Overcoming a hidden disability

I was advised to contact a dedicated group in North Yorkshire that enables people in a similar position to me to have the opportunity to continue their Award journey. At this time I needed a wheelchair to get around. I didn't have a powered wheelchair of my own so I managed to convince my Nan to lend me hers. I was economical with the truth about going off-road across the North York moors in it. Let me assure you she was not best pleased when I handed back a mud-splattered, wrecked wheelchair! Silver done.

I then made up the crew of the first open Gold sailing expedition with three other able bodied crew. This proved to be a real challenge for me and the rest of the crew. Brain injury is a hidden disability so it was difficult for the rest of the crew to appreciate my problems. On a 30 foot boat there is nowhere to hide! This was the first time that I had been part of a team whilst being disabled. It was a daunting challenge.

Pushing personal limits

I discovered that the Award can be flexible and is challenging for disabled and able bodied alike. The Award pushes participants to their personal limits and recognises them equally by the accolade of the Award.

I have been an active trustee of the Thomas Cook Children's Charity for the past five years, helping to make children's dreams come true globally. My success in the Award has given me the confidence to mix in society on equal terms and indeed to talk at big events such as the World Fellowship Anniversary Dinner and the International Award Foundation's Coronation Ball. But Nan's chair is still a write-off!

Defying the odds to get gold

In this film Spencer explains in more detail how the Award has helped his rehabilitation process.