Taking a test spin in a wheel chair isn’t easy as it looks. Many people taking the wheel chair challenge set up by the 1st Yennadon Scouts and Venturers Wednesday couldn’t make it through the gentle slalom course that ran downhill around the bandstand in Memorial Peace Park.
And the return stretch meant wheeling up a slight grade, using only muscle power.
“It gives them a little bit of a taste of what it is like to go uphill,” said scout leader Lorelei Ducharme.
“If you watch, most of them use their feet.”
The wheel chair challenge was a warmup event to the 25th anniversary of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour.
Hansen wasn’t at the event but the relay team that crossed Canada in the 25th Anniversary Relay did roll in, led by Maple Ridge wheelchair athlete Nathan Bragg.
“It’s just an honour to be part of something like the Rick Hansen relay,” Bragg told the crowd.
Hansen’s wheelchair trip around the world and his constant efforts since at including those with disabilities, have made a difference, says James Telep, part of the relay team.
The Maple Ridge resident has been in a wheelchair for 14 years, following a snowboarding accident on Hemlock Mountain.
“I saw him 25 years ago before I broke my back,” he said following the ceremonies. The accident “slowed me down but didn’t stop me,” he adds.
So has life improved for those with disabilities since?
“Of course. People are doing a lot.”
He and Kevin Priebe, also in a chair, run Adaptive Seating Products which makes specially seats for wheel chair athletes in many sports.
Telep trains with the Pitt Meadows Paddling Club, is a national para-athlete and fastest in his class of kayaking.
Except for the odd building today, most are wheelchair accessible, he says. Telep points out Maple Ridge’s leisure centre, where he trains a few times a week, is fully accessible.
One challenge though his keeping his vehicle filled up with gasoline. There’s only one full-service gas station in town.
The relay’s arrival was exactly 25 years to the day, when Rick Hansen first rolled through Maple Ridge.
“It seems just like yesterday that I stood on the highway and watched Rick roll by,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin.
Now his grandchildren are learning about Rick Hansen, he added.
“What he did was open our eyes,” said Maple Ridge school board chair Mike Murray.
“The diversity in our public school system is our greatest strength I believe.”
Hansen appeared at the relay’s arrival in Pitt Meadows Spirit Square on Thursday.