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A life-changing family win – what happened when Tia and mum met TV’s Steve Brown

TV Presenter Steve Brown – known to millions as one of BBC Countryfile’s roving reporters – was happy to share his own experience as a new Omeo user when he was involved in telling Tia McConnell she’d soon be out on her own Omeo too.

Steve was in on surprising Tia with the amazing news that she’d just won our first ever competition at the start of August. Tia had travelled to the Aspire Centre with her family not knowing the real reason for the journey – or who she was going to meet once she arrived

‘My Omeo has made a world of difference to me,’ he confirmed, as he chatted with Tia and her mum Denise in the nearby Horatio’s Garden.

‘With work and my lifestyle, I spend so much time out and about in wild places – across nature reserves, through parks, on beaches, in the forest – and I can tell you first-hand how much of a difference this is going to make.

‘Not just in terms of your ability to go through these places, but with the confidence and ease to do it. You feel better – you don’t just look better.’

Access all areas

Steve also spoke of his belief that accessibility isn’t necessarily about changing the terrain but (where possible) using the ‘right equipment’.

‘You don’t climb Mount Everest in flip-flops,’ he said. ‘And the Omeo is going to open up a whole new world for you.’

‘It’s going to change everything!’ Tia agreed.

But winning the Omeo isn’t ‘just’ going to change life for Tia – it’s also set to change life for her family, girlfriend Abby plus her dog Delilah who will be out enjoying a lot more walks very soon.

Steve took the time to ask Denise about her own journey as a parent, and the way in which Tia’s gradual loss of mobility (from the age of 16) had impacted all their lives…

A mother’s perspective

As Denise explained: ‘Sometimes, people who are born with disabilities and people who acquire a disability later in life – it’s a different mindset going on after that.

‘She [Tia] had done so much – the horseriding, the dancing, she was so full of life – and for that all to stop, suddenly, was awful. You’ve got to be really mentally tough to try to get through it.

‘You need friends around and the support of family is vital. The counselling services are very fractured at the moment, but the Omeo is almost like a counsellor itself because it’s taking you out, [enabling] nature-based therapy.’

Elaborating on her own experience as a mum, Denise said: ‘You go through a long time of denial. I was in denial – this is not happening to my gorgeous daughter, this is not going to be her life.

‘Then you learn there are compensations for it and you look for other things to do, but nothing has made up for [Tia] losing the horseriding or dancing yet.

‘As a parent it’s heart-breaking to watch and it can affect your mental health as well. It can spiral.’

A life-changing win

Happily, Denise is certain that Tia winning our competition has ‘broken the spiral’ – especially after seeing how much she enjoyed test-driving an Omeo for the first time at our Weymouth ‘try me’ day this spring

‘She was in a completely different world,’ she says, smiling as she recalls the moment she watched Tia ‘hurtling off’ into the distance.

All in all, it was quite a day… with meeting Steve a real highlight for both Tia and Denise.

Inspiring fresh hope

‘Steve was understanding, friendly and positive and when you find out about all the things he's done since his injury, well, it's just mad!’ Tia says. ‘I was so surprised to see him!’

As for Denise, she says that watching Tia meet Steve – knowing that ‘his CV as a disability ambassador is, quite frankly, off the scale’– was a pivotal moment.

‘Steve is proof that big life achievements are more than possible, even after the sort of injury that robs you of your early dreams and ambitions,’ she concludes. ‘He's a huge inspiration and a bringer of high hopes to young people like Tia who rely on mobility aids for so many of the daily things they need and want to do. My heartfelt thanks to him!’


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