Cherylee Houston, better known to the nation as Izzy Armstrong in Coronation Street, will return to the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run on Sunday 20 May, raising funds and awareness for TripleC.
The Morecambe-born actress is the driving force behind TripleC – a group of disabled and non-disabled people focused on changing inclusivity to the arts and speeding up the process of making the work place more accessible for the next generation.
Last year Cherylee was joined by a group of electric wheelchair users and their carers on the city centre start line, and this year she hopes to have an even bigger team.
Cherylee said: “The Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run was brilliant last year.
“The enjoyment of doing it together was incredible. We had five electric wheelchair users last year and we want as many as possible this year, so come and get involved!”
TripleC came about through acting workshops Cherylee used to hold almost 20 years ago.
She was contacted by a young woman who had participated fifteen years ago, who told Cherylee that the skills and tools she had taken away from the workshop had made her live her life in a very different way than first expected, because it had helped build up her confidence and self-esteem and come to terms with her disability.
“It made me think about how we could help the next generation,” said Cherylee. “Not just creating new actors but using the tools we learn in acting to instill confidence and self-advocacy in any disabled young person.”
With this in mind, she got back in touch with the youngsters who had been involved her acting workshops, now all in their 30’s, to form TripleC.
The group is in the early stages of setting up a youth theatre and has now launched a Disabled Artist Networking Community, where 50 artists were able to attend the first meeting as the money raised from the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run helped to pay for their transport and care assistance.
Cherylee says: “TripleC is run on a largely voluntary basis at the moment, and although it takes up a lot of time it is something I am incredibly passionate about.
“I have seen the difference it can make if you give somebody the confidence to be what they want to be and have been through the experiences of being told ‘it’s not for you’.
“Society is more geared up for us now but we can speed up the change if we can own it ourselves and share our knowledge. This is why fundraising through the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run is so important to us, because it helps us make a real difference to peoples’ lives.
“My pain kicked in at the age of 11 and I became a wheelchair user at the age of 24.
“I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which means I am in constant pain and my joints dislocate very easily.
“Even though I use an electric wheelchair, keeping myself upright for a long time and going over the bumps in the road for the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run was very painful but such an achievement, and to see my city in a way that you never normally would unless you’re doing the run is amazing.
“Living with constant pain had taught me that there are a lot of positives in it too, it’s all about how you choose to deal with it.”
Cherylee and her team hope to raise enough money from the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run this year to purchase a computer so they can edit the work of the young people and continue to fund access and care where needed to get people together to discuss the changes needed and create the ideas and projects to overcome these issues.
The Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run is the UKs biggest 10K, it welcomes people of all ages and abilities to a running celebration in the heart of the city centre.
Heading out of town the course goes past Old Trafford, the Imperial War Museum and the Lowry before heading back to the spectator packed finish line in the shadow of Beetham Tower on Deansgate.
The Simplyhealth Mini and Junior Great Manchester Run takes place on the same day as the adult event so young runners and budding athletes can experience the buzz and even share the same start line as their mums and dads.