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Event gets the wheels turning

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Basketballs bounced, wheels turned and the whistle was blown for yesterday’s official kickoff of Barrie’s seventh annual Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion event.

The annual event, presented by Scotiabank, brings Canadians together to raise money and awareness to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries.

“The goal is to bring awareness to wheels in motion and to people with disabilities,” Drew Rigden, athlete ambassador for Parasport Ontario, said yesterday in Barrie. “Scotiabank makes (the event) a success, they’re all excited today. It’s great to see enthusiasm because they bring that enthusiasm to the cause.”

Forty participants were involved in the wheelchair basketball games at the Collier Street branch of Scotiabank. Bank employees and partners escaped the office to play 15 minute games.

“The goal is to bring awareness to what it would be like to live in a wheelchair,” said Lee Walker, head of the event. “It’s a real eye-opener. It’s unimaginable and that’s apart of today. It’s the simple day to day activities that can be a challenge.”

Walker said there are 41,100 Canadians living with some form of spinal cord injury, and the number grows by 1,100 annually.

“A spinal cord injury can happen in a moment, but can change lives forever,” said Bill Crook, executive director of Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion, in a release. “By donating and participating in their local Wheels in Motion event, people are helping to create solutions for people with spinal cord injury in their own community.”

Last year, the event raised $60,000, and event organizers hope to match, or exceed, last year’s profits.

The money raised will go directly into the community by installing lifts for pools and parks, and generators, so that people in wheelchairs can still go up and downstairs in the event of a power failure. Fiftyfive per cent of the money raised stays in the community, while the remaining 45 per cent will go toward the Rick Hansen foundation for other solutions and spinal cord injury research.

Since 2003, the beginning of Wheels in Motion, Canadians have raised $9.6 million and have supported more than 800 quality of life projects across Canada.

Rigden said that disability accessibility has come a long way, but still remains a primary concern.

“There’s always something people can do. People need to take a look at their work environment, personal environment and the public environment. Just that thought alone goes a long way,” Rigden said. “When we break down barriers and improve accessibility and awareness we’re helping the overall population.”

The Wheels in Motion participating teams will compete in a series of activities designed by people with spinal cord injuries. The demanding activities will help people better understand the challenges that people living with spinal cord injury, and those living in wheelchairs, face every day.

The Wheels in Motion event will take place June 14, rain or shine, on Collier Street. The event runs from 9 a. m. to noon.

There are 25 teams signed up for Wheels in Motion, but event organizers are hoping for another 10 teams. Everyone is welcome to participate.

Teams must have five players and pledge a minimum of $1,000.

To register, visit, or call 1-866-60-WHEEL.

Andrea Nicholl is the Examiner’s intern from Sheridan College

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