Soldier’s son wins trip to Vegas to meet wheelchair athlete hero
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Most of his life has been spent in a wheelchair, but that hasn’t stopped 8-year-old Dustin Stallberg from dreaming of back flips and hand plants.
Born with spina bifida, Dustin wants to follow in the treads of his hero, Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham, a wheelchair athlete, who performs tricks adapted from skateboarding and BMX.
Fotheringham, 19, who also has spina bifida, a birth defect that in most cases results in a disability, is credited with landing the first ever back flip in a wheelchair.
The son of Army Sgt. Timothy Stallberg of the 172nd Infantry Brigade in Schweinfurt, Dustin will get to meet Fotheringham and perhaps even learn a few tricks later this summer, after winning a local radio contest.
Antenne Bayern radio station near Munich, along with soft drink manufacturer Franken Brunnen, held a promotion this month to fulfill the wishes of children living in the Southern German state of Bavaria.
Dustin’s name was one of 12 randomly drawn from among more than 10,000 entries, said Jennifer Linseisen of Antenne Bayern.
“We were happy about having the chance to fulfill such a great and emotional dream,” she said of Dustin.
Other winning wishes included swimming with sharks, being mayor for one day, horseback riding to school, spending the night in a toy shop, and flying to Alaska to see one’s father, Linseisen said.
For his wish, Dustin’s family of five — he has two younger brothers — will fly to Las Vegas for three weeks in August. He’ll get to spend some time with Fotheringham, presumably at a skate park.
Dustin, who also speaks German, can already do a wheelie on his sports wheelchair, but he wants to do more.
“It’s cool to learn such stunts, and I would show it to other people,” he said by phone from his home in Eltmann.
Fotheringham said by email that he’s “pumped” to meet Dustin.
“I’m honored to be considered his hero and … I’d love to maybe be able to show him how spina bifida can be fun, and not so much of a burden.”
Timothy Stallberg, Dustin’s father, said he thinks learning from Fotheringham will show his son that “you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to, whether you’re actually able to walk or not.
“He already wants to get a helmet, knee pads and elbow pads,” he said.