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Wheels in Motion ready to roll

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Rick Hansen event raises funds for spinal cord injuries and research

Powell River’s third annual Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion takes place from 10 am to 1 pm, on Sunday, June 10 at the Powell River Recreation Complex.

Community members, businesses and families can collect pledges and walk, bike, run, rollerblade, skateboard, or wheelchair along designated routes around Powell River. Route lengths vary from three to 10 kilometres.

“It will be a fun time, I imagine,” said Giovanni Spezzacatena, a spokesman for the event. It’s a very worthy cause.”

Spezzacatena, who works with the Powell River Model Community for Persons with Disabilities Society, was hired in February through a Vancouver Foundation grant. “My role is to increase awareness and increase accessibility to people with disabilities,” he said.

The money from the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion event goes toward the little things that make life easier for people with spinal cord injuries. Event ambassador Joe MacKenzie personally raises $600 the first year and $400 in 2006. Last year’s event helped raise money for a lift for the recreation complex family change room. With the help of other fundraising groups, the lift was purchased and installed.

“I’m very confident that it will be more successful than it was last year, and it’s all part of getting started earlier and getting more people involved,” Brent Bryksa, the other official ambassador of the Powell River event said. “I hope that we can get the word out enough that people can mark it down on their calendars and come out and enjoy the event with everybody.”

Spinal cord injury affects more than 41,000 Canadians and there are more than 1,000 new injuries occur each year. Wheels In Motion is an event held in communities across Canada to raise money to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries, and for research leading to a cure.

“We’re just starting the planning process,” MacKenzie said. “It’s going to be a lot better this year for sure. A lot more people are involved.”

The funds raised through the pledges will go toward the purchase of a $6,000 standing frame. Standing frames provide leg motion and upper body exercise for the disabled during standing therapy. With it, users can accomplish mild or vigorous workouts while enhancing the therapeutic benefits of standing. Currently, Powell River has no such equipment for adult wheelchair-users.

Bryksa suggested working towards the purchase of the standing frame, Spezzacatena said. “He said it’s very beneficial for people like him because it helps the circulation and helps build muscles that otherwise wouldn’t be built. Additionally, the ability to stand in the frame is psychologically very healthy, an aspect that most people wouldn’t think about.”

“It’s for somebody who’s in a wheelchair 24 hours a day,” Bryksa said. “They’re never putting weight on their legs, their muscles shrink and they get really weak. They’re more fragile and more Prone to breaking legs. So if you stand for a regular basis, then you’ve got the strength in your legs. Even if you’re not able to walk, the standing frame keeps muscle tension and muscle strength in your legs.”

Bryksa was involved in a drinking and driving accident when he was 17 and is a wheelchair user. “Wheels in Motion is to raise awareness and to let people know that just because you have a spinal cord injury, that you’re life is not over and that you can still can get out and do things,” he said.

“I’m personally involved with it,” MacKenzie said. He uses a wheel chair and said the event is a great way to go out and do something positive for the community. It doesn’t take a lot to accommodate people with disabilities, he said.

“You put a curb cut in the sidewalk–everyone can use it, and if there’s no curb cut, then only half the population can use it. It’s just little minor things. They sure add up over time.”

“It’s good for everybody if things are accessible,” Bryksa added, “I don’t really want help, but if places were made more accessible, I wouldn’t require somebody to help me go grocery shopping or help me do anything.”

Wheels in Motion fits into the model community project in several ways, Spezzacatena said. “Powell River is probably the most accessible small town, I would think, in the province for sure and maybe in the country. Pledge forms for Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion are available the Powell River Model Community for Persons with Disabilities Society office, at the volunteer center, the visitor’s centre, Scotiabank, and several other venues. Businesses are encouraged to help promote and donate funds or raffle prizes to the event.

“Sooner or later everyone is going to know somebody in their family or their friends who have a spinal cord injury,” Bryksa said. “It’s to everybody’s benefit to raise awareness and to make the community more accessible and inclusive to everybody.

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