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Chair challenge helps people in wheelchairs

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Rick Hansen event funds work in Stouffville

No one can fully comprehend what it’s like to live life with a spinal cord injury or be confined to a wheelchair.

Which is why Whitchurch-Stouffville is again playing host to the Rick Hansen Scotiabank Wheelchair Challenge.

The challenge requires teams of five to compete in activities such as shooting balls into a hockey net, while sitting in a wheelchair; writing a specific phrase with oven mitts covering his or her hands; or carrying a full glass of water, with hands bound, through an obstacle course, again in a wheelchair and without spilling the water.

These tasks may seem like pretty easy things to accomplish, but they’re not. Yet, they are a part of the everyday challenges faced by people with spinal cord injuries.

“It hits home more with what we’re raising money for and it raises awareness too,” said Stouffville event organizer Marty Bartley.

The Rick Hansen Foundation was created in 2003 to help facilitate more accessible and inclusive communities for people with spinal cord injuries.

As part of this mandate, at least 50 per cent of the money raised through local events remain in the municipality where the fundraising took place.

The annual fundraiser started five years ago as a five km walk, run and wheel event. But two years ago the Rick Hansen foundation changed it to a wheelchair challenge.

Since Whitchurch-Stouffville started participating in the Rick Hansen Foundation events, it has raised more than $60,000, which has enabled the municipality to install automated doors in the arena, along with an arena change table and platform at ice level for wheelchair-bound spectators to see the action up close.

Accessible picnic tables in area parks, automated doors in a couple of churches, along with special beds for local residents were also all as a result of the annual fundraiser.

This year, the local organizing committee wants to purchase a recumbent transport and transfer system for the leisure centre’s pool, which currently has a chair lift.

“If a person has an upper spinal injury, that chair doesn’t support their head, so the chair doesn’t work for them,” Mrs. Bartley said of why they want the recumbent lift.

It will cost about $9,000.

The local fundraising committee also wants to purchase a special wheelchair that can be used at the town’s splash pads.

“You don’t want to take your expensive wheelchair to a splash park,” Mrs. Bartley said, noting the chair would be owned by the town and available, for free, via a sign-out procedure.

“A couple would be really good, but one would be a benefit to the community as well, I’m sure,” she said.

Each splash pad chair costs $2,200.

The Rick Hansen Scotiabank Wheelchair Challenge takes place Sunday, June 14, at the Stouffville Arena, 12483 Ninth Line. Registration begins at noon, with the team challenge starting at 1 p.m.

For more information or to register a team, contact Marty Bartley at 905-640-6584


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