'It's just like any other fashion accessory': Wheelchair user gifted spoke guards by Kettering business
A Kettering business has gifted Alex, a wheelchair user, spoke guards after they met at Johnny's Happy Place Christmas Fair
A Kettering businessman has gifted a pair of spoke guards to a local wheelchair user, Alex Howe, after they met at Johnny's Happy Place Christmas Fair, where Alex was a volunteer counsellor before an accident left him paralysed.
He uses a wheelchair and yesterday (Thursday) he was gifted a pair of spoke guards by Frank Rodgers, who runs Spoke Guards from Kettering and has the vinyl designs printed in Corby.
Seeing his union jack spoke guards for the first time, Alex said: "They're wicked, thank you."
Alex said most wheelchairs are just black or grey and boring, and that spoke guards will let him add some personality to his chair.
Frank said that is what inspired him after he went to a fashion show, because he said: "It was called 'Disabled and Sexy' and all the models came down in wheelchairs with fantastic hair, make-up, clothes but all the wheelchairs were black and grey and functional.
"The wheel is a big part and we thought why not put something on it?
"It's like any other fashion accessory."
Frank started making the spoke guards and now offers personalised designs.
He said Spoke Guards has official Little Mix merchandise wheels and had One Direction merchandise when the band were still together.
Frank also offers football team spoke guards.
Alex first came across Frank's spoke guards at Johnny's Happy Place Christmas Fair.
Alex said: "When I came across his stall it was the first time I had seen them.
"I asked him how much it would be for a pair and he said, 'for you, nothing.'"
Frank was told more about Alex's story by Denise Mackay, who set up Johnny's Happy Place following the death of her son Johnny in 2014.
Johnny's Happy Place is a community cafe that offers food and drink for £1, a counsellor drop-in, art classes and more.
Alex had been volunteering as a counsellor since Johnny's Happy Place first started and was travelling back from a counsellor training session at Mind in Corby in March 2018 when his car slid into a ditch and left him paralysed.
Since the accident, Johnny's Happy Place have continued to support Alex and have raised money for him to go towards things like therapy and equipment.
Frank presented Alex with his spoke guards yesterday (Tuesday) and Alex was delighted.
He said: "They look wicked, I have friends I will recommend these to.
"I was in hospital for 11 months and met loads of people who I know feel the same way (about wheelchairs)."
Alex is also hoping to get some BMW alloy wheels for his chair from Frank, who showed him a few designs.
Alex also spoke about the support he has had from Johnny's Happy Place and said: "They're unbelievable, it's unreal how much they have done to help me. I can't thank them enough."
Alex has just started back at work almost exactly a year after he left hospital. He has only eight hours of training left before he qualifies as a counsellor.