Some of you may know that back in October we took part in our first ever Triathlon (The Roy Nasr Memorial Triathlon). But what you may not know is the inspiration behind our decision to take part. We’ve been following #TeamAngelWolf for a while now and have been so motivated by their extraordinary journey that we felt compelled to get off our bums and do something active ourselves. We also made the wise decision to sponsor this amazing family so that they can continue their brave challenges.
We decided to put a few questions to Nick, one part of this beautiful family so that you too can get to know him and the story behind #TeamAngelWolf.
Tell us about your story.
We have two children, Rio (13 years old) and Tia (10 years old). Rio has severe special needs, with a rare chromosome disorder called ‘1q44 deletion denovo syndrome’, which in short means that he has seizures, is non-verbal, has severe learning disabilities, gross/fine motor skills disabilities, sensory integration dysfunction, amongst many other difficulties… BUT he is a very happy, loving little boy.
We have lived in Dubai since 1998. Our work and passion has always been around the Health and Fitness industry. Since Rio was born, as a family we have always endeavoured to create awareness of children with special needs within the community. We have previously created events and programs, such as ‘Warriors of Health’ (an interactive platform to enable children to choose a healthier lifestyle) and ‘reaching you’ (events and activities to spread awareness of children with special needs). All our previous experiences and life events helped guide us on the journey to create #TeamAngelWolf.
When Delphine was pregnant with Rio we were in Hawaii where I was competing in the ultimate Kona Ironman Triathlon. During that race (not knowing at the time about Rio’s disabilities) I envisioned the future, that one day I would race in triathlons with my son. After Rio was born, we discovered that he had severe special needs which would mean that he independently would never be able to participate and experience sports as we can. For a while, this destroyed our many planned family dreams, especially the one with me one day racing with Rio in the future. Then one day, after many life traumatic events we realised that I can race with Rio, but just in a slightly different way to what we originally imagined. This inspired us to create #TeamAngelWolf.
With this awakening, we decided to give it a go. We entered one race, the DIT triathlon on February 2015. This would mean that I would have to complete a 1.9km swim, 90km cycle, and 21km run, taking Rio with me the whole way, and with Delphine and Tia as the support team. Adventure HQ kindly came forward as sponsors to purchase the specialised equipment that was needed. We were all set, we entered, we completed the race and Rio LOVED the experience!
What is your mission?
We soon realised that this mission of #TeamAngelWolf would not only benefit Rio but would also benefit others within society. Our mission is to spread awareness of people with disabilities, showing how people like Rio can be included in sport and experience what others can ‘choose’ to experience. Also, the effort of #TeamAngelWolf motivates others to choose to be fit and healthy (because if I can do this, then there is no excuse for someone else to just get up for a walk on the beach, or to start their own journey on a health regime). It’s also a prime example of how beneficial and important ‘teamwork’ is. It also became very clear that many people want to make a difference in the world in some way, but have no idea how to go about it, and #TeamAngelWolf’s mission was inspiring others to do something, to make a difference in the world, in their own way.
This realisation made us aware that we could also incorporate our previous work ventures and remould it all into #TeamAngelWolf’s mission.
For example, in our previous ‘Warriors of Health’ venture, we had the strong belief that as adults we have to take responsibility for the alarming, increasing rate in childhood obesity and diabetes. Enough is enough, it’s time to empower our youth (the next generation of leaders and parents) with knowledge and tools, to enable them to make good health choices, to give them the ‘choice’ to fight for a healthier future—to be ‘warriors of health’! We owe this to the generations to come, to correct the ill ways that our generation has caused! This belief and mission fits perfectly with the ripple effect that #TeamAngelWolf is organically creating, as with the mission of ‘reaching you’, our foundation that held events and activities to create awareness, inclusion and integration of children with special needs.
This all helped guide us to further expand our messages and mission of #TeamAngelWolf, with creating inspiration talks for schools, corporates, social groups, creating health challenges for corporates and the community and guiding them towards this goal, events with inclusion, etc.
As this has now developed into a full-time venture within itself, #TeamAngelWolf look for sponsors to help keep the mission going to further spread the messages. There are many exciting plans ahead to further develop #TeamAngelWolf and to help society with its missions.
What is your inspiration?
Our inspiration has to come from our original heroes, Team Hoyt. A father and son team (the son has Cerebral Palsy) who started racing back in the 70s. Before Rio came into our lives, we used to watch the documentary stories behind Ironman. This is when we first heard of Team Hoyt. Just watching their story made a huge impact in our lives, without knowing that we too would one day be in the same position. Having a son with a disability and racing in triathlons with him!
Where does the name Team Angel Wolf come from?
The name ‘#TeamAngelWolf’ came from the nicknames of our children. Rio, we call our ‘Angel’ and Tia we call ‘Little Wolf’. Their nicknames are very fitting to their characters! Without them both, their team effort, sacrifices, support, and the constant wisdom reminders of life’s priorities that they give us, then #TeamAngelWolf would never have been possible to create.
Tell us a bit about Rio and Tia.
Their nicknames say it all. Tia (a.k.a Little Wolf), is a character of her own. She is beautiful, wild and incredibly free-spirited, yet incredibly wise. She is supportive yet not competitive. She has strong empathy and incredible humour! She has had the attitude of a teenager since birth! At times we feel worried she is a sibling of a child with disabilities, that her life seems compromised in some ways. But then she comes out with such profound beautiful statements that suddenly reassure us like, “I think everyone should have a brother or sister with special needs, as they are so much kinder and more fun than other brothers and sisters”.
With Rio (a.k.a angel), many at first see his beauty, but then they may just see the pity, the disability, the struggles, the behavioural meltdowns. But those that know him, know him as always happy and smiling, living in the now (never fretting over yesterday or tomorrow). He proves daily that you do not need words to communicate cheekiness, mischievous, humour, sarcasm, and love! We all have much to learn from him!
What keeps you motivated?
Our main motivation has to be Rio. To witness his pure love, happiness, and passion with all the races we involve him in keeps us going when life moments get tough! He has truly directed our destiny!
Also, the feedback we receive from our #TeamAngelWolf inspiration talks keeps me motivated. I LOVE giving talks to schools and corporates. Being able to inspire young minds, our future leaders, and decision makers is a very rewarding job, it is always the highlight of my week! We often receive private social media messages from the children or their parents, explaining how inspired they felt from the talk, which in turns inspires us to continue!
We aim to follow-up school talks with a proactive challenge for the children to get involved in which incorporates all #TeamAngelWolf mission messages. For us, it is inspirational to watch the children embrace the message that they perceived, interrupted and put it into action. This motivates me.
We also feel privileged to be able to motivate corporate workers by relating our story and mission to their daily life (at work and privately), proving the importance of teamwork, not giving up, getting back up after an obstacle, making a positive out of something that appears negative, making a difference, and believing.
When you see corporates engage into a fitness challenge after motivation from one of our talks (e.g over 80 people from a company entering a triathlon race, many of whom have never participated in regular exercise) and come back to you for guidance on their training, then you know you are doing something right and worthwhile!
It also motivates us when we start seeing the #TeamAngelWolf logo being worn at races we attend or even in other countries. We receive photos via social media of athletes that are embracing our mission messages and want to wear the logo with pride at their international races—be it from triathlons, crossfire, etc and seeing teams from companies wearing the logo at races they participate in after attending one of our talks. All this makes us proud and sees the organic reach of a powerful and needed message!
Feeling inspired yet? Yep, us too! We enjoyed chatting to Nick so much we had to ask him some more questions. So, stay tuned for part 2 where we’ll get to hear all about #TeamAngelWolf’s toughest challenges to date.