Edmonton youth gets new lease on life with all-terrain wheelchair

Click to play video: 'Edmonton teen receives dream all-terrain wheelchair'
Edmonton teen receives dream all-terrain wheelchair
WATCH: An Edmonton youth's spinal cord injury in a car accident last summer changed his life forever. But a new wheelchair is helping him restore some of the freedom he once had. Jaclyn Kucey has more – May 24, 2024

An Edmonton youth who suffered a spinal cord injury now has the chance to regain some of the freedom he once had thanks to a new wheelchair.

Tanner Leslie, 12, lost his ability to walk when he and his family were involved in a head-on vehicle collision in July 2023 west of Revelstoke, B.C.

Everyone in their car survived, but Tanner took the brunt of the injuries, losing all feeling from the waist down.

With the help of the Shine Foundation, which aims to empower young Canadians living with severe physical disabilities, the family found a way for Tanner to continue being a kid.

“This is something that we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own,” said Carly Dinan, Tanner’s mom. “We didn’t know what our options were, so they gave us some ideas.”

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The Ontario-based organization decided on the “not a wheelchair rig,” an electric all-terrain chair developed by a Utah-based company that Tanner can steer with his arms to access territory normally inaccessible with his manual wheelchair.

Tanner said he’s excited that the rig will remove more barriers, adding it has already restored some of the freedom he once experienced before the accident.

“It’s very easy,” Tanner said. “It’s not (much) of an arm workout.”

Dinan remembers crying when Tanner tried the rig for the first time in front of their house.

“He had the biggest smile on his face,” she said. “Just watching him … brought a lot of peace, so it was super exciting.”

Thanks to his new chair, Carly said the family will get to fully experience summer this year. They didn’t last year because everybody was lined up in a hospital bed.

It’s going to play a positive role in his new reality, she said.

Tiffany Houston, CEO of the Shine Foundation, said the organization is focused on changing lives for the better.

In this case, it’s Tanner’s new rig.

“It’s giving them an opportunity to really look at a new trajectory into their future,” she said. “It’s … helping them build confidence and independence and optimism, and it boosts their mental health.”

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As a self-described thrill-seeker, Tanner is hoping to take it out for a rip at a farm one day.

“I like feeling the rush,” he said.

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