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Wheelchair sports group welcomes new participants

Click to play video: 'Free wheelchair sports event welcomes all ages' Free wheelchair sports event welcomes all ages
Free wheelchair sports event welcomes all ages – May 26, 2017

The BC Wheelchair Sports Association invited Kelowna to try wheelchair sports, providing free equipment and instruction on Tuesday night at Okanagan Mission Secondary.

The association hosts events around the province for young adults through to seniors, providing access to expensive sport-specific chairs which can cost around $3,000 to buy.

Lisa Myers is the program manager for the association, and she says a wide range of people attend these events.

“We have people who are brand new, newly injured who have just moved back home,” Myers said. “[Also] friends and family who come out to support.”

Myers said the chairs are easier to maneuver than everyday chairs, allowing athletes to spin on a dime.

“It’s due to the camber of the wheel, so that just makes it so I can move around up and down the court,” Myers said.

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Chairs are available to rent through the non-profit association for $10 per month, or $100 per year. The aim of the programs is to broaden the horizons of people dealing with a motor disability.

Kids can also get involved through the Let’s Play program, according to Marni Abbott-Peter with Wheelchair Basketball Canada.

“All of our sports, especially with the Lets Play program, are totally integrated. So we have kids who are able bodied, siblings, friends, cousins, whoever, come out and play with their disabled peers,” Abbott-Peter said. “It’s a great opportunity for education and awareness in terms of disabilities and inclusive play.”

The program began in 2009 through Rick Hansen’s Accessible Playground Initiative. Today, it provides free sports chairs to kids province-wide, with the option to swap out for larger sizes as they grow.

“Sometimes parents are focused on physiotherapy and the medical side of things, and they get a little bit swamped with life and everything,” Abbott-Peter said. “We just want to remind them that this is a chance to play and give the kids a chance to do it.”

Art Kelz is a volunteer with the association, driving a trailer full of wheelchairs to events around the province. He got involved after watching his disabled son struggle with isolation.

“When there’s chairs available for friends of his, in here with a few people who are disabled, and you can have other able bodied people come play with them, it’s fabulous. Because everybody needs to play,” Kelz said.

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