Team "Angels' Wings", now taking part in the Biz4All Social Entrepreneurship Incubator programme organized with support from the European Union, was created two years ago by Dmitry Timashkou. He is the director of Angels' Wings team and brings up daughter Lilia with severe disability. In 2015, Dmitry took Lilia in a wheelchair to run the Minsk half-marathon for the first time. “My desperate attempt to break out of the harsh social isolation found support among participants of the half marathon, fans and spectators, and later the media," recalls Dmitry. “The whole time we were running I could hear applause and cheers. People looked at me and my girl with disability with delight and admiration instead of pity and disgust or sadness. Then I thought I could get together a team of wheelchair-using children with severe disability and healthy runners".
|Dmitry Timashkou, Director of Angels' Wings Team |
Photo: from personal archive
In the past years, Angels’ Wings, which gives 40 children with disability from Minsk and Vitebsk and their parents an opportunity to train, took part in many marathons, both in Belarus and abroad. Dmitry says that in that time, many Minsk families with children with disabilities started to lead active lives again.
Inclusive Sports Club “Angels’ Wings” helps them train for the races. The club is led by Irina Dergach, a journalist and mother of a boy with autism. The club meets for practice twice a week throughout the year: either in Loshitsa Park or in the track-and-field arena of the Centre for Olympic Training in Athletics.
Joint races for health and socialization
"Unexpectedly for us, many families who are not directly affected by this problem got interested in joint activities with parents and children with disabilities," says Irina. “Large families with many children, like families of Olga Gaiduk and Anatoly Kamyskailo, Tatyana and Andrey Vasiliev come to visit, because it’s interesting and fun to do things with us. Regular parents also want to do sports with their children. Previously, we were the only ones who cared for our children, but now we have built a friendly community around them who accept them for who they are and regard them as partners and not as a burden."
|Irina Dergach, journalist and head of Inclusive Sports Club “Angels’ Wings” |
Photo: from personal archive
However, there are still over 2,000 families with children with severe disabilities in Minsk, who face total social isolation. Meanwhile, the city has 10,000 runners and not enough sports events for them. Dmitry and Irina raise children with disabilities and they are also seasoned runners. When they saw the needs of both target groups, the team decided to focus their efforts on organization of social sports events.
Dmitry and Irina came to Biz4All Social Entrepreneurship Incubator programme with the idea to organize regular charity races together with their team. Biz4all has not yet finished, but Angels’ Wings have already held their first race on May 27 in Loshitsa Park. The race was notable for a number of reasons: it ensured accessible access for everyone, wheelchairs were provided to those who could not walk, and the race was held in the festival format and had original handcrafted rewards.
Angels’ Wings race held on May 27 became the pilot product of the organization. According to Dmitry and Irina, Biz4all seminars and trainings helped them cut costs and think their marketing strategy through. They brought together a team of ten people and engage forty volunteers. Dmitry says that they had no start-up capital and had to look, where possible, for assistance that could be provided free of charge.
|Dmitry Timashkou with daughter Lilia, Irina Dergach after a marathon. |
Photo: from personal archive
They prepared carefully and thoughtfully. In order to get an idea of possible mistakes and challenges, they organized a test club run on April 30. All club members were invited via e-mail to come to Loshitsa Park on May 27. The event was also promoted through social media, the team’s website, Minsk running clubs and the Belarusian Athletics Federation, as well as the media.
Original types of races were invented to engage participants. For example, they could run in pairs: at the start, the partners had their hands tied together with a red ribbon, so they got through the race side by side, meaning they had to feel the rhythm of the partner, think about them and adjust their own efforts accordingly.
|Photo collage from the first charity race in Loshitsa Park held on May 27, 2017, that was organized by the Angels’ Wings team. |
Photo: the team's Facebook page
The race held on the 27 of May demonstrated that Minsk has interest for such events. The organizers did not set a fixed registration fee, so that everyone could pay as much as they wanted. More than 80% of the participants send their contributions to the charity account of the organization.
|Irina Dergach and Dmitry Timashkou (on the left) during a Biz4all training on customer validation|
Photo: Vitaly Brazousky
Preparing for the autumn marathon
In less than two years, Angels' Wings team of runners, which includes adults and children in wheelchairs, has taken part in three international marathons in Kiev, Sochi and Seville, as well as in two half marathons in Minsk and Barcelona. The charity run held in May was a success. The next run is scheduled for September 3.
To cope with all the organizational and technical issues, the team is looking for a technical director, a web marketing specialist and other volunteers who are interested in developing inclusive sports, spreading positive energy and making the world a better place. Apply at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angels’ Wings to fly across ocean
In the near future Dmitry, his daughter Lilia and Irina are planning to take part in the inclusive race to be held in the United States in July. “Angels’ Wings look up to the American tradition of wheelchair marathons, which started more than 40 years ago”, says Dmitry. “This trend was started by Dick Hoyt and his son Rick. They ran 72 marathons together and became legends in America. Today, the Hoyts have thousands of followers in the US and Canada, and 27 branches of myTeamTriumph organize inclusive races in 19 states. We established friendly ties with our counterparts in the United States, ordered and had a professional racing wheelchair built, which we want to bring back home with us, but first we will help organize and take part in a marathon in the state of Wisconsin”.
Dmitry, Irina and their team will apply their newly acquired American experience at the second charity marathon, which is going to be held on September 3 in Minsk. You can support their trip and the purchase of the special racing wheelchair at the campaign page at ulej.by crowdfunding platform.
|Dmitry Timashkou, his daughter Lilia and the Angels' Wings Team during a marathon in Ukraine, 2016. Photo: from personal archive|
Team members often have to explain why disabled children need to run. “During a six-minute flight in a racing wheelchair with the “Wings” (team of adults) our “Angel” (child with disability) discovers a mile of previously unattainable world filled with beauty and joy”, explains Dmitry. “This is worth our effort. Children improve their health, parents no longer feel alone with their problem, and the world becomes kinder and more accessible”.
"Children with autism have different problems”, adds Irina. “Often these are physically healthy individuals with good intellectual and creative potential who look for room to express themselves and get social recognition instead of a disability status. For young people with autism, doing sports and caring for children in wheelchairs is an opportunity for social rehabilitation".
Text by: Valerya Nikalaychyk
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The publication was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.