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In 2015, we ran our first Cross Your Own Oceans; a project which aims to overcome the isolation young people living with rare diseases can face and empower them through an adventure. Thanks to the generosity of WorkSpace, who provided us with pro bono venues, we had enough funding (initially provided by BBC Children in Need) leftover to repeat the project with a new group of young people.

Four teenagers and their parents joined us in central London last weekend, to kick-off this second round. Over mini Danish pastries, we went around in circles introducing ourselves, as more participants showed up. By the end we were all thoroughly acquainted with each other. Once we were all assembled, Elin shared her inspirational story about how she overcame the challenges life threw at her, with perseverance and a strong sense of adventure. Elin has now rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, and sailed across the Pacific Ocean, despite not having a background in either of these sports. In doing so, she has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds supporting medical research.

We then entered the main team-building session of the day: designing our own superheroes. The lovely Amy Gallagher (http://www.amiluu.com/) introduced us to some well-known superheroes and the values they uphold, to get the creative juices flowing. Literal juices soon flowed as we broke for lunch, nibbling Pret sandwiches and getting to know each other better.

Then the pencils came out and superhero magic commenced. The youths designed a full range of heroes, from Pick-N-Minx (equipped with helicopter pigtails and the ability to control minds), to Transvenger Stripes (who could heal EDS pain and fight transphobia), to Disco Man (who could spread happiness and play music from his multi-star flair trousers). We also discussed how we would design a group superhero, and the powers we would want it to have. Amy will be bringing our heroes to life over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on our blog.

We closed the afternoon with pitches for our adventure, to find our own “oceans” to cross. The group decided to take on the heights of the London Eye and the sharks of the London Aquarium.

We’d like to thank Elin and Amy for their help on the day, WorkSpace for another lovely pro bono venue, and all of our teens and parents for making the trip and having such a fun day!

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