This year’s theme for Empowerment Day in Guelph was: “I can. I will. Watch me.”
There are not many people more suited to spread that message than wheelchair basketball player and Fergus native, Patrick Anderson.
He was one of several guests who spoke to 5,000 elementary school students inside the Sleeman Centre on Thursday.
Considered one of the best wheelchair basketball players to ever play the game, Anderson lost both his legs at the knee after he was involved in a crash at the age of nine.
He told students that after the amputations, he can remember praying for his legs to grow back.
“I was upset,” he said. “I was looking back at what I had lost.”
“That was one of the last times I remember looking back at what I had lost and started to look forward to what I still had. Not what I was missing, but what I still had.”
Anderson would win gold medals with Team Canada at the 2000 Sydney Games, the 2004 Athens Games, and the 2012 London Games.
At the age of 39, he is still with Team Canada, who are trying to earn a spot in next year’s Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Thursday’s event also featured hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, motivational speaker Leon Legothetis, anti-bullying app developer Trisha Prabhu and singer Stacey Kay, who is a native of Cambridge.
Empowerment Day is an initiative by Upper Grand District School Board and was created by two students at Drayton Heights Public School in 2015. It has since featured various speakers every year.
One of the goals of the event is for students to take the messages they hear back to their school and community.
Anderson also addressed bullying and admitted he wasn’t brave enough to confront those who picked on others.
“I just wanted to fit in and I felt self-conscience. Often I lacked the courage,” he said.
“I just want to encourage you guys to be courageous.”