Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Home News
Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008 | 5:53 p.m.
Aaron Fotheringham had always wanted to see the wheelchair sport he coined "Hardcore Sitting" become popular. But he didn't know how to start.
It took a reality TV show, and the generous checkbook of its star, to inspire the northwest Las Vegas resident to take his dream to the next level.
Fotheringham, a 16-year-old who competes in BMX competitions on his wheelchair, received $20,000 during an episode of Fox's "Secret Millionaire" that aired Dec. 19.
He plans to start his own business, dubbed Hardcore Sitting Company, to help other handicapped children compete in wheelchair athletics.
"With that check I will be able to buy the first equipment to get me started," Fotheringham said. "I would like to build up a company, find someone, and do what my sponsor did for me."
The series is about millionaires who travel incognito through poor areas searching for well-meaning citizens worthy of a charitable donation.
Gregory Haerr, a Salt Lake City millionaire and subject of the Dec. 19 show, was impressed by Fotheringham while filming his episode in Las Vegas over the summer.
After posing as typical documentarian, Haerr revealed himself to be a millionaire and presented Fotheringham with a $20,000 check in the episode's finale at Doc Romeo Skatepark in northwest Las Vegas.
"It was just a big shock that someone believed in my dream and would be willing to help me get started," Fotheringham said. "It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me."
The millionaires usually give money to people who have overcome great personal obstacles or others who devote themselves to various community service.
Haerr thought Fotheringham fit the bill and has continued to stay in touch with the teenager.
"Aaron just has a different outlook on life and I think that is why (Haerr) helped him," said Steve Fotheringham, Aaron's father.
The Fotheringham family watched the show together and enjoyed reliving the experience.
"It was a fun chapter in our life," Steve Fotheringham said. "We're definitely not destitute but there is no way we could have afforded what Greg helped us with on our own."
Aaron Fotheringham, whose spina bifida took his ability to walk at age 3, has done his wheelchair-meets-BMX stunts in local skateparks since he was 8.
He earned himself a spot in the Guinness World Record last October by being the first person to complete a backflip in wheelchair.
In addition to the check, Aaron Fotheringham received a welding machine.
His next step will be to take welding classes at College of Southern Nevada while carefully spending his money.
Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].