Disability influencer takes on superhero coastal challenge

Disability influencer and advocate Ali Hemsley is dressing up as her favourite superheroes and walking almost 25 miles of Sussex coastline to raise money for pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

Ali Hemsley wearing a superwomen outfit, holding a Leonard Cheshire fundraising bucket.

As part of the ‘At Home Superheroes’ challenge, this month, the 27-year-old communications manager and social media content creator from East Sussex will be taking on four 10km walks across Bexhill, Eastbourne, Seaford and Brighton. She’ll be setting off on 17 July and hoping to finish by 14 August.

She says:

“The At Home Superheroes challenge is all about the disabled community coming together (virtually!) to have fun and share our successes within sport. The incredible disabled community online have taught me so much - and really helped me to navigate and manage the chronic illnesses I developed at 17 years old.” 

In 2020, Ali was also diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia and FAI and, in February 2021, she had to have major hip surgery to ease some symptoms and repair the damage. 

She says:

“Thinking about the At Home Superheroes challenge has kept me motivated throughout my recovery and it's a fantastic opportunity to raise money for a good cause!”

All the money Ali raises will support international disability charity Leonard Cheshire to provide vital services for disabled people to live, learn and work as independently as they choose. 

Ali says:

“I've experienced disability discrimination first-hand and know how serious the effects can be. Leonard Cheshire is a brilliant charity that do so much for disability rights, promoting inclusion and accessibility, and challenging discrimination.

"They work on a local, national and global level to drive change - and make the world a better place for disabled people! As a community, we have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and I think that this is a great opportunity to raise money and support the charity.”

Following on from “an intense” few months of physiotherapy after hip surgery, Ali is training for her challenge by spending lots of time in the gym or on her exercise bike. 

“I’ve been going on lots of walks and have also been practising my superhero power poses!” she reveals.

When she’s not dressing up as superheroes, Ali is known for her massive online presence where she challenges stereotyping around chronic illness.

She says:

“I hope to show that chronic illness and invisible disabilities don’t have a “look” and can affect anyone, so it’s important to be kind. I’ve received a lot of comments over the years - mainly that I’m too young or that I don’t “look ill” but that erasure can be really damaging! I also want to encourage people to talk more.

"For years, I made myself more unwell by trying to pretend that I wasn’t ill. Now that I’m more open about my health, I can comfortably and confidently set the boundaries I need and ask for support, I feel so much better and can even do more!"

Ali admits there are two sides of having such a big online presence:

“I’ve connected with so many incredible people and have made so many new friends who truly understand what I’m going through. Whenever someone sends me a message or leaves a comment saying that I’ve helped them to feel more confident with their health, it really does make my day!

"The hardest part about having a social media following is experiencing negative comments and trolling. I try to remind myself that it’s often a projection of other people’s insecurities and try to just remove the comment and move on.”

Ali’s friends and family will be cheering her on during her walks and helping to her fundraise.

To donate to Ali’s fundraising efforts for the charity Leonard Cheshire visit: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/alihemsley.

Ali joins 60 others fundraising for Leonard Cheshire, amongst the 3,000 places on the At Home Superheroes challenge this summer.

Media enquiries

For further information, interviews and high res images please contact Claire Farrell via Claire.farrell@leonardcheshire.org.

Ali Hemsley

Ali Hemsley is a social media influencer, public speaker, and disability advocate. To find out more about Ali Hemsley and her work, please visit: @alihemsley on Instagram.

About Superhero Series

  • Superhero Series is the UK’s only sports series dedicated to the nation’s 14.1 million people with disabilities of any kind (Everyday Superheroes) and their family and friends (Sidekicks).
  • There are four annual events: Superhero Tri; At Home Superheroes; Winter Wonderwheels; an At Home Winter Wonderwheels
  • The success of the 2020 At Home events has highlighted the need for the Series to continue to offer these events alongside its regular events going forward, to ensure as many budding Superheroes as possible can take part.
  • The Series launched on 19 August 2017 with Superhero Tri and is now in its fifth year.
  • Every Superhero event features a ‘celebrity race’, where members of the public can win a chance to unite with high-profile Celebrity Team Captains from TV and sport.
  • Superheroes entering solo events must consider themselves to have a disability of any kind,
  • To enter the Superhero Series, at least one team should consider themselves to have a disability (of any kind) whether it be physical, intellectual, sensory or invisible. No classifications are needed.
  • The two live events are both based at the world-class 2012 Paralympic rowing venue Dorney Lake in Windsor.
  • The Series is founded and run by Paralympian Sophia Warner
  • Superhero Series wouldn’t be possible without the support of its Super Partners: Marvel; Disney; My Sense; Pfizer; Irwin Mitchell, Aberdeen Standard Investments; Oracle; Quest; ReSport; and Rubies.