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U of G Leaders to Spend Day in Wheelchairs to Raise Awareness

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Several University of Guelph leaders will be spending June 4 in wheelchairs to help raise awareness of the upcoming Wheels in Motion event and the challenges faced by people living with spinal cord injury and other physical disabilities.

President Alastair Summerlee, who is the honorary chair of the sixth annual Wheels in Motion being held June 8, has spent a day in a wheelchair for the past several years to draw attention to the event. This year, he will be joined by Joanne Shoveller, vice-president (alumni affairs and development); Brenda Whiteside, associate vice-president (student affairs); Mike Emes, dean of the College of Biological Science; and Robin Begin, director of Campus Community Police. Summerlee will also spend Wednesday, June 4, in a wheelchair.

“There is no better way to raise awareness and draw attention to our event than having several high-profile members of the University community participate in exercises such as this one,” said Cyndy McLean, director of the Health and Performance Centre and a member of the local Wheels in Motion organizing committee. McLean is a former marathon runner and elite-level athlete who was left Paraplegic after falling more than 100 feet off a cliff in 2003.

Whiteside, a member of the University’s Accessibility for Persons With Disabilities Advisory Committee, said she hopes to come away from the experience with new and increased awareness. “I want to understand some of the accessibility issues on campus and the challenges people with disabilities have.”

Everyone spending the day in a wheelchair will attend meetings and other activities as usual, and some will take part in a group activity at 10 a.m. on Branion Plaza aimed at demonstrating some of the obstacles faced by people with disabilities. The challenge is in keeping with the theme of this year’s Wheels in Motion — ensuring that recreational and fitness opportunities are available for people with SCI.

Most of the proceeds from this year’s Wheels in Motion event will stay in Guelph and be used to buy wheelchair-accessible fitness equipment for the city’s Victoria Road Recreation Centre. Proceeds will also support the purchase of a height-adjustable medical examination table for U of G’s Student Health Services.

“These are two very worthy projects that will allow us to continue to improve access to recreation and health services for people with SCI and other disabilities,” McLean said.

Wheels in Motion was started by Olympic wheelchair champion Rick Hansen and raises money for spinal cord research and local communities. U of G is the primary sponsor of the Guelph event.

The 2008 event begins at noon at the Athletics Centre, with registration at 10:30 a.m. A highlight of the day is the Scotiabank Wheelchair Challenge, which has teams of five competing against one another to complete a variety of day-to-day activities in a wheelchair. People can also collect pledges and then wheel, walk, bike or run a 2.5-kilometre course on campus. Numerous activities throughout the day will be geared to families and children, including a free barbecue and an arts and crafts area.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982

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