Monday, February 28, 2011

Story 24: The Wheelchair Loan Program

Gail Hamamoto poses with a participant who is using a loaner chair to try tennis.

In the mid-nineties, BCWSA Director of Sport Gail Hamamoto took some track athletes to Alberta for a clinic. Many of the BC athletes she brought were pushing "outdated clunkers" and Gail was impressed when the Alberta staff brought out several brand new chairs thanks to their wheelchair loan program.

"I knew that we had to get a similar program going in BC," recalled Gail. "So I went home and told Kathy Newman about it and we began applying for grants. The CKNW Orphans' Fund was our biggest supporter and slowly other organizations came on board and we just kept amassing chairs."

Today, BC Wheelchair Sports has 75 chairs to loan out to athletes. BC Wheelchair Basketball has a further 130 chairs. Thanks to this program, athletes in wheelchair tennis, athletics, rugby, basketball and floor hockey no longer have to worry about the financial burden of purchasing a chair. Considering that a sports chair costs at least $3000 -- and many cost significantly more -- the wheelchair loan program eliminates one of the biggest barriers to participation that new athletes face.

"It's enabled hundreds of new people to get involved," said Gail. "It's also allowed athletes to try out chairs to understand what set-up works for them before they invest in buying one. We understand, however, that many athletes will never have the financial means to purchase their own chair, so they can use our chairs for as long as they're playing."

Want more info on the wheelchair loan program? Click here.

Story 23: Bridging the Gap

In 1999, BC Wheelchair Sports identified a need to support athletes who had been introduced to wheelchair sports while in rehab but needed an extra push to fully become involved in a sport. The Bridging the Gap program, originally headed by Sian Blythe, was born. In the past 10 years, what started as a provincial initiative has now gone Canada-wide. Bridging the Gap now introduces hundreds of athletes across Canada to wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby.

The goal of Bridging the Gap is to eliminate the gap between people's introduction to wheelchair sports and their continued involvement in physical activities. Bridging the Gap hosts sport-specific Have a Go days where participants can try certain sports in a fun, supportive atmosphere. Current wheelchair athletes volunteer their time to demonstrate sports and answer questions that participants may have. Developmental programs are in place so that interested athletes can continue to participate. Bridging the Gap also offers human resources support and financial support for development programs. Junior programs, peer mentorship and leadership training are also available.

Here is a slideshow of some Bridging the Gap events in BC:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Story 22: The Higgins Family

Our last family profile in Family Week of the "40 Years. 40 Sports. 40 Days" campaign is on the Higgins Family. Those of you active in wheelchair basketball will likely recognize Joe and Louise Higgins and their daughters Erin, Christine and Paula, but did you know that Joe and Louise actually met while competing at swimming in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics? This sport-loving family also skis, golfs and bike rides together. Today, we talk to Louise Higgins about how involvement in wheelchair sports impacted her family.

1. How did you get involved in wheelchair sports?

Our family began our involvement through Joe. He has been involved with wheelchair basketball since he was young. I met Joe on the plane on the way to Seoul in 1988 where we both competed at the Paralympics in swimming. Since then, our family has skied together, played wheelchair basketball together (all 5 of us!) and biked around our neighbourhood together. Joe and I play golf as much as we can in the spring and summer.

2. Why did you decide to get involved in wheelchair sports to the extent that you did?

We didn't really decide to be involved exactly. It just happened prompted by our desire to pursue sports activities as a family and maintained by sheer enjoyment.

3. Describe the ways in which you've been involved in wheelchair sports.

I started with swimming (not really wheelchair swimming, though!) and skiing in the 1980s. I used to ride my bike on campus (to get to class on time!) and now I share that with the kids. Golf is something Joe and I started a few years ago to move us to our retirement plan!

When Joe and I got married, he was heavily involved in coaching wheelchair basketball. In the early days when Erin was a baby, we had lots of athletes coming over to train with Joe on the rollers and to benefit from some one-on-one coaching. Exposure for Erin started early!

Joe stayed home with the other two kids after his coaching role changed. As they grew up, he continued to be involved in basketball, but we also took up skiing more seriously. All three of the girls started skiing before age 5. We spent a lot of time up at Big White and Joe developed his abilities with the sit ski. Joe never goes half measures with any of his interests and soon we were teaching up at Whistler with their adaptive ski program!

In 2004, Joe was approached to fill in as coach with the Calgary Rollers during a tournament in Vancouver. By this time, I had been playing a bit of basketball in the City League for fun. I was asked to play in the tournament so that they could make points. After one day, I was exhausted as I have never been before or since. I guess I did okay because both Joe and I had our contracts extended with the Rollers for the rest of the season and into the next season!

4. How has being involved in wheelchair sports impacted your family?

As mentioned, we continue to enjoy many ski vacations as a family and all three of the girls are good skiers now. This has contributed greatly to family cohesion. Because wheelchair basketball offers opportunities for able-bodied people, this has allowed our daughters to experience sport with their father. They have played regularly in the junior tournament in Richmond. Erin in particular has discovered her love of the sport and went to Halifax for the Canada Winter Games. She has found her inner agro personality despite being a generally gentle-spirited person. In a more general way, our involvement in wheelchair sports has promoted in our daughters a sense of tolerance and understanding of diversity in others.

5. How has the wheelchair sports community in BC changed since you first got involved?

I think there is more awareness of wheelchair sports in the able-bodied community and a perception that it is foremost a sport and not adaptive fitness for "the handicapped."

6. What is your wheelchair sports highlight from the past 40 years?

Playing with Erin and Joe on the Vintage Cable Cars team that also includes Erin's godfather Peter Colistro and the Lundie team. It is a real pleasure to share the sport with two generations of athletes!

7. How does it make you feel to watch your kids competing in wheelchair sports?

I have been really proud of Erin in her involvement in the sport. With success comes her desire for further involvement.

For those of you who missed it the first time around, here's Joe and Erin talking about their experience at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Story 21: The Gardner Family

Just as wheelchair sports would not exist in Prince George without the Harris family, Victoria owes a similar debt to the Gardner family. For over 20 years, the Gardner family, (Lynn, Ron and their children Kevin and Karen), worked to ensure that athletes from Vancouver Island were able to compete at the same level as those on the mainland. Whether serving on a board of directors or just making sure that a local athlete got a hot meal or a ride to practice, the Gardner family made the Victoria wheelchair sports community better.

Lynn Gardner began volunteering in the late 1970s when her son Kevin became involved in wheelchair sports at age 9. She served as an assistant manager or manager at several competitions, including 10 BC Games, and even took a team from Victoria to a competition in Morioka, Japan. Lynn was also an executive member of the Victoria Wheelchair Sports Association for 20 years and a board member of the BC Wheelchair Sports Association for several years.

Her son Kevin continued her volunteering legacy. Not only did he compete at a high level in wheelchair basketball and racing -- including participating in the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul in the 500m and 10000m -- but he has also served as the co-commissioner of the BC Wheelchair Basketball League, the chairperson of the Victoria Wheelchair Sports Association, and a member of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association's Athletics Committee. Kevin was also the long-time player-coach of Victoria's wheelchair basketball team and coached several teams at BC Games.

We interviewed both Kevin and Lynn to find out how wheelchair sports impacted their family:

1. How and when did you get involved in wheelchair sports?

Lynn: We got involved with wheelchair sports when Kevin was 9 after being introduced to it by Linda Hunt, who was also a Sidney resident.

Kevin: My first competition was (I think) swimming in the 1977 BC Games for the Physically Disabled. I was starting to get involved with some wheelchair sports in Victoria by that time, although for quite a few years my favourite sport was playing road hockey with my friends in the neighbourhood.

2. Why did you decide to get involved in wheelchair sports to the extent that you did?

Lynn: Kevin was interested, so we all followed along as a family doing whatever we needed to do to help. As the years went by, I got more involved with our Victoria group and then with BC Wheelchair Sports. Our first trip as a family was to Spokane with other Victoria athletes and it just continued from there. We put many miles on our vehicles over the years to make sure that Kevin and others got to all our local activities.

Kevin: I kept playing sports just because I kept having fun trying new sports, traveling and meeting people. Competing at multi-sport events like the BC Games exposed me to basketball, tennis and racing and I competed in all of these for quite a few years. After the basketball nationals in 1987 I decided to focus on racing to try to get to the 1988 Paralympics.

3. How has being involved in wheelchair sports impacted your family?

Lynn: All our family was involved in many activities, but many were just Kevin and I. Wheelchair sports becomes like a big family once you are involved no matter where you are from. It really was a big part of my life for many years.

Kevin: My family spent a great deal of time around competitions, even camping near where the BC Games were being held in the summer. Until I was old enough to drive, my mom was in the car a lot driving me to wherever sports were being played. My mom's involvement lead to her own volunteering career as a team manager/ official. All of us have met great people and made a lot of friends through wheelchair sports.

4. How has the wheelchair sports community changed since you've been involved?

Lynn: Wheelchair sports has grown so much since I first started. It has expanded to include so many sports and opportunities for so many people. There is no doubt that this a result of the leadership of our Executive Director Kathy Newman and the staff and board members she has put together over the years. Thank you Kathy, staff and board for all the years of dedication to the athletes, which is what BCWSA is all about.

Kevin: There is more of everything: more opportunities in sports in more parts of the province and much better awareness of what's available. When I got involved, people were just beginning to play tennis and racquetball and no one was skiing or playing sledge hockey. Most people had never seen a wheelchair sport unless they knew someone who was involved or the demo team had come to their school.

5. What is your wheelchair sport highlight from the past 40 years?

Lynn: It is hard for me to pick one highlight, since every competition has its great memories. For me personally, the race that was most exciting involved Kevin at the track trials in Edmonton where he, Paul Clark and Dan Wesley qualified for the Olympic trials in Belgium in 1987. As a family, our involvement with Richard and Marni's family has been a highlight for us. It was a privilege for us to be included in several honourings for them in Duncan. The people I met through all the years of involvement are really what make being involved with BCWSA such a great memory.

Kevin: Qualifying for the trials (held in Brussels) for the 1988 Seoul Olympic wheelchair 1500m demonstration event. To get to the trials, I had to finish in the top four in a qualifying race held at the 1988 Canadian nationals in Edmonton. Over the last 200 meters of that race I went from last place to fourth, passing everyone except Andre Viger, Dan Wesley and Paul Clark.

Thank you to the Gardners for their years of service to the BC wheelchair sports community. Below is a photo slideshow of the Gardners in action:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Story 20: The Harris Family

Today, we profile the Harris family. Pat Harris is a former Paralympian who has competed in both track and basketball. When he and his wife Nancy moved to Prince George in 1980, they realized that there were no wheelchair sports opportunities in the area. Today, Pat, Nancy and their son Avril are working harder than ever to ensure that people with disabilities have access to quality sports and recreational opportunities in Prince George, including the exciting new Let's Play program. Want to know more about the Let's Play program? We'll be doing a video blog on it later in the 40 Days initiative, so you'll just have to stick around to find out.

Our social media coordinator traveled to Prince George to interview Pat, Nancy and Avril and find out how wheelchair sports have impacted their family:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Story 19: The Hirschfield Family

Bobby fixes Trevor's chair.

Hustling to change a wheel.

Trevor competes for Team Canada

Today, we profile the efforts of the Hirschfield family and their work in the wheelchair rugby community both within BC and abroad.

Trevor Hirschfield is considered one of the best low-point wheelchair rugby players in the world. He was named Best 1.0 at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships and has won many other Tournament All Star awards at national and international events. When Trevor's on the court competing for Team Canada, he doesn't have to look far to find his family. His father Bobby is also involved heavily with the Canadian national team, most recently as an equipment manager at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. The entire Hirschfield clan is usually not far behind. They're known to be ardent wheelchair rugby fans and even traveled to the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing to witness Trevor win a bronze medal.

Within BC, Trevor and his family have also been instrumental in developing wheelchair rugby on Vancouver Island. As one of the few national team athletes who lives in BC full-time, he mentors developing athletes and participates in demos and Have a Go days. Trevor's public speaking has also introduced British Columbians to wheelchair rugby.

We sat down to talk to Trevor about the impact his family has had on his career:

Q: Why did you decide to get involved in wheelchair rugby to the extent that you did?

A: My first attempt at rugby was in 2001 at a Have A Go day in Victoria. Duncan Campbell made sure that I wasn't going to miss it with all the constant reminders. After trying rugby for the first time I knew that it would be something that I would be interested in pursuing to the next level. I was really drawn to the physical aspect of the sport. It's not everyday you get to see two wheelchairs crash into each other at full speed. Being an ex-hockey player the physical part of the game felt natural.

Q: How has being involved in wheelchair rugby impacted your family?

Rugby has been great for my family. It gave me goals and something to work towards and my family has supported me every step of the way. Rugby helped my to move on with my life after my injury which has been extremely positive for both me and my family.

Q: What is your wheelchair rugby highlight so far?

My favourite rugby moment was getting to play on the world stage in front of my family in Beijing. I loved that I was able to share that moment with them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Story 18: The Abbott-Peter Family

Today, we continue Family Week of the "40 Years. 40 Stories. 40 Days" campaign by celebrating the Abbott-Peter clan. Most people in the B.C. wheelchair sports community are familiar with Marni Abbott-Peter and Richard Peter, who are two of B.C.'s most decorated Paralympians. Less well known are the contributions of their families, who have done everything from travel worldwide to cheer on Team Canada to create art for logos and awards.

Instead of devoting a few thousand words to the contributions of this family, we decided to put together a little video together with some photos supplied by both families. Music: The Avett Brothers - "Head Full of Doubt/ Road Full of Promise" from the "I and Love and You" album.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Story 17: Family

It may be Family Day in parts of Canada today, but it's Family Week here at BC Wheelchair Sports. This week, we'll be profiling several influential families who have participated in wheelchair sports as athletes, coaches, supporters, and builders.

To kick off Family Week in our 40 Years, 40 Stories, 40 Days campaign, we've put together a video blog about a second generation of wheelchair athletes, some of whom who recently competed at the 2011 Halifax Canada Winter Games. Erin Higgins, Derek Lundie and Avril Harris all got involved in wheelchair basketball because their parents are former elite wheelchair athletes. We talk to both the athletes and their parents to see how these kids went from gym rats to respected athletes in their own right.

Story 16: Able-Bodied Integration

Able-bodied participation in wheelchair sports is probably the Paralympic movement's most controversial topic. Critics of integration say that able-bodied or minimally disabled people take spots on teams away from disabled people and that disabled athletes with a higher classification rating (such as 4.5 in wheelchair basketball) who acquired their disabilities as children and so were not able to take advantage of the able-bodied sports system are at a significant competitive disadvantage. Proponents of integration, however, say that the classification system does a good job of leveling the playing field, that able-bodied athletes raise the level of play in wheelchair sports, and that able-bodied athletes help teams in smaller towns to be able to field enough athletes to compete.

More importantly, however, the presence of able-bodied athletes turns the wheelchair into just a piece of sporting equipment, as opposed to a marker of disability. You want to play hockey? Strap on some skates. You want to play soccer? Get some cleats. You want to play wheelchair basketball? Get into a sports wheelchair. A wheelchair therefore becomes just another way to compete.

While wheelchair basketball is perhaps most famous for its policies on integration, other sports also allow able-bodied participation. Wheelchair tennis, for example, has "up-down" tournaments where either an able-bodied person plays against a person in a wheelchair and the person in the wheelchair is allowed one extra bounce of the ball, or an able-bodied and a disabled person play on a doubles team together.

Whatever your opinion on able-bodied integration, it's clear that able-bodied athletes are an important part of the wheelchair sports movement in BC. Today, we salute these able-bodied athletes who dedicate years to a sport that they cannot play at a Paralympic level.

Up-down tournament in tennis.

Article on integration from 1990.

Article on Laura Goertz, who was not only an athlete, but also became a massage therapist to the Canadian women's wheelchair basketball national team after her retirement from the sport.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Story 15: Kathy Newman

It's hard to imagine BC Wheelchair Sports without Kathy Newman. She started working for the organization as an office manager in 1981 and took the helm as the Executive Director in 1987. For the past 30 years, she's ensured that the BC Wheelchair Sports Association remains a world leader in providing sporting opportunities for people with disabilities.

Kathy is known for her ability to run with a good idea, even if it's untested. She was instrumental in the founding of the Bridging the Gap program, which introduces people with disabilities to wheelchair sports and helps to ensure their continued participation. The Bridging the Gap program has since spread across Canada and its model has inspired other countries to adopt similar initiatives. During the recently 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, she invested in a robust social media and webcasting program, something that had never been done before in wheelchair sports. The initiative was a success and thousands of people in countries around the world got a chance to share in the excitement of the event online. Kathy has also lobbied government and the private sector to remove barriers for people with disabilities and increase funding for wheelchair sports. She also serves on various wheelchair sports boards across Canada.

Kathy's enthusiasm and positive attitude is contagious and she inspires those she works with to maintain a standard of excellence and innovation. This was most recently seen when BCWSA hosted the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, which set records for attendance, ticket sales, merchandise sales and media attention. Currently, Kathy is turning her attention to assisting with the 2011 Under 25 Women's Wheelchair Basketball Championships, which will take place at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario this July.

Recently, Kathy received the prestigious "In Her Footsteps" award and we've got video footage of the event below. Thank you, Kathy, for your 30 years of hard work and dedication to wheelchair sports.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Story 14: BC Games

To celebrate our province's attendance at the 2011 Halifax Canada Games, we've already profiled Team BC here. But before Canada Games athletes get a chance to trade for another province's pins or put on the Team BC jersey, they often represent their zones at a provincial games. From the BC Games to the BC Disability Games to the Western Canada Games, athletes, coaches and support staff get a taste of the fun and pressure of a multi-sport competition.

The excitement of attending a BC Games often inspires athletes to compete at a higher level. Many future Paralympians have fond memories of sleeping on gym floors, socializing with athletes from other sports and tasting the pressure of competition for the first time.

Here is a look back at some moments in BC Games history:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Story 13: Dean MacKinnon

They're often not the most popular with players and coaches on the court, but referees have been crucial in shaping BC Wheelchair Sports' history and it's hard to find a referee more dedicated to wheelchair sports than Dean MacKinnon.

Dean MacKinnon began officiating wheelchair basketball in 1962 and has been involved in the sport ever since. He has officiated in the provincial wheelchair basketball league, the BC Winter Games, Canada Games, the NWBA and even attended international tournaments in the USA. In addition to being the head official and allocator for wheelchair basketball in BC, Dean is also a respected wheelchair rugby referee and introduces new officials to the sport through educational clinics.

Here are some photos of Dean MacKinnon in action.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Story 12: The 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships

Our 12th story is also one of our most recent stories. This September, BC Wheelchair Sports hosted the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. Twelve of the top wheelchair rugby teams competed for gold in front of thousands of cheering fans. From the sold-out crowds to the professional quality webcast to the robust social media program to the schools program, which exposed 15,000 school kids to the sport of wheelchair rugby, BCWSA tried to host a world-class event.

The results were even more positive than we expected. The event made over $40,000 in ticket sales, sold out of all merchandise (despite re-ordering part way throughout the tournament), attracted 57 accredited media and saw coverage on TV, radio and the newspaper. The event would not have been possible without over 150 dedicated volunteers and our many sponsors.

Here's a photo look back at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Story 11: The Vancouver Cable Cars

In 1970, the “Dueck Powerglides” -- the first wheelchair basketball team in BC -- were renamed the Vancouver Cable Cars. The team participated for many years in the American league and became a powerhouse at the national level in Canada, winning the national championships 13 times between 1968 and 1983. The team included athletes such as Peter Colistro, George Boshko, Eugene Reimer, Rick Hansen and Terry Fox, who would go on to play important roles on national teams and in bringing wheelchair sports to the public eye.

The Cable Cars were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of fame (as the Dueck Powerglides) and and the Wheelchair Basketball Canada Hall of Fame. In recent years, BC athletes have paid tribute to the Cablecars by naming an NWBA team and a Division 2 BC - CWBL team after them. Today, we honour the Cablecars and the many athletes, coaches and volunteers who helped to ensure their legacy.

Below are some photos of the Cable Cars and a photo collage from the BC Sports Hall of Fame induction.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Story 10: Coaches

Wheelchair sports in BC would not exist without the dedication of coaches, most of whom work on a volunteer basis around the province helping athletes to reach their potential. In the world of wheelchair sports, a coach is rarely paid and the job doesn't after the game or practice session is over. Coaches advocate on behalf of athletes, plan tournaments and training camps, serve on committees and boards, and further the development of their sport by bringing in the latest sports science research or innovation in equipment.

From internationally renowned coaches like Tim Frick (who we’ll be hearing about in more depth later) to the player-coaches who ensure that their small local teams develop, BCWSA thanks the wheelchair sports coaches of BC. Here is a photo retrospective of some great coaching action shots over the past 40 years.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Story 9: The Demo Team

Since its inception in the 1980s, the BC Wheelchair Sports Demo Team has introduced 50,000 students and teachers in schools across the province to wheelchair sports. Current and former athletes demonstrate the sport, share their stories and promote messages of safety, participation, integration and living a healthy, active lifestyle. Students and teachers got a chance to try the sport and play with demo team members. As a result of this program, thousands of children are now aware of wheelchair sports and what people with disabilities can accomplish.

Last year, the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships demo team brought wheelchair rugby to 15,000 students in the Richmond and Vancouver school districts. Thanks to a series of lesson plans created by Laurel Crosby and her team and the hard work of the demo team, the stands of the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships were filled with 7,000 cheering fans who knew the sport of wheelchair rugby better than many of the adults.

Here are some photos of the demo team throughout the ages. We've also got a video blog of the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships schools program.

Paralympians Marni Abbott-Peter, Richard Peter and James Truer
James Truer impresses some school kids during a demo.

Blast from the past

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Story #8: George Boshko - Athlete, Coach, Builder

Born in 1946 in Munich, Germany, George Boshko came to Canada as an 11-year-old with his family. In 1966, while at the University of Manitoba, George was convinced to take part in a wheelchair basketball demo event and was quickly hooked. He represented Canada in the 1967 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, the 1968 Games in Israel, the first National Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Canada in 1968, the Para Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, the 1976 Olympiad in Toronto and many other international competitions. Because he competed at a time when an athlete had to be in at least 5 events to be on an international team, George also competed in athletics, discus, shot put, javelin, pentathlon, 1500m track, and swimming.

George is known as a team player who does what needs to be done to have the team function effectively. Though he has retired from competitive sport, George has given back to the wheelchair sports community by coaching many women’s and junior’s teams and attending numerous BC Winter Games events as a member of the coaching staff. For his outstanding contributions, George was named BCWBS Volunteer of the Year in 2000, BCWSA Coach of the Year in 1996 and has also been inducted into the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame.

For our 8th story, we highlight the contributions of George Boshko and provide a photo retrospective of his career.

Taking the tip-off!

Though remembered as a basketball player, George was also a swimmer.
George has coached numerous women's and junior's teams.

As an athlete, George attended the Para Pan Am Games in Israel in 1968

Friday, February 11, 2011

Story 7: Team BC

The 2011 Canada Winter Games will take place in Halifax this week, so for story #6 we’re highlighting the contributions of the athletes, coaches and support staff on Team BC.

Wheelchair basketball was first introduced at the 1995 Canada Games in Grand Prairie, Alberta and is the only wheelchair sport at the Winter Games. Not only are the Canada Games teams made up of a mix of able-bodied and disabled athletes, but they’re also co-ed. (Teams get an extra classification point for every woman they have on the floor).

For some athletes, the Canada Games are a stepping stone to Paralympic competition. For others, the tournament is a chance of a lifetime to experience the excitement of a Olympic-like, multi-sport event. But while the athletes are the ones winning the medals, Team BC’s achievements would not be possible without the dedication of coaches, support staff, teammates back home, and parents who drive athletes to every practice and cheer them on.

Here is Team BC’s Canada Winter Games team:

Nathan Bragg (Maple Ridge)
Stephanie Park (Maple Ridge, 2011 U25 national team athlete )
Coti Koski (White Rock)
Natalie Imbeau (West Vancouver)
Erin Higgins (Delta)
Jack Kosterman (Langley)
Kelsey Dyck (Langley)
Matt Ficocelli (Kelowna, 2009 U23 national team athlete)
Dieon Green (Victoria, 2009 U23 national team athlete, Team Co-Captain)
Avril Harris (Prince George, Team Co-Captain)
Derek Lundie (Delta)
Erik Vliegenthart (Kamloops)

Head Coach: Cheryl Corrigan (Richmond)
Assistant Coach: Ross McDonald (Burnaby)
Team Manager: Makiko Harada (Vancouver)

BC Wheelchair Sports wishes the 2011 Canada Winter Games team good luck in Halifax. To cheer them on, leave your own comment below and we'll pass it along to the team. Here are some video interviews we conducted with some athletes and coaching staff. To follow the team’s progress, check out BC Wheelchair Basketball's website at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Story 6: Volunteers

BC Wheelchair Sports has always thrived on the passion and enthusiasm of volunteers. Over the years, thousands of people have given up their time and energy to ensure that our athletes can compete at their best. At the recent 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships, for example, over 150 volunteers did everything from serve food to act as table officials to drive the buses.

Sometimes, volunteers are people unconnected to the wheelchair sports community just looking for a way to give back. Other times, our athletes or coaches donate their time to help the next generation. Either way, BC Wheelchair Sports is grateful for the many different types of volunteers who have passed through our doors over past 40+ years.

Since there are too many great volunteers to list by name, today we'll celebrate volunteers by posting a volunteer recruitment video from 1989. Join "Felicia" and "Liz" as they learn about the many ways you can get involved in wheelchair sports....including participating in a shirts vs. skins wheelchair basketball game and volunteering your services as a clown. Catch the Spirit!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Story 5: The Wheelathon

Though the first Wheelathon was actually held in 1971 in Stanley Park, the event didn't take place on a regular basis until 1988. At its peak, upwards of 600 people in teams of 10 - 15 gathered at Swangard Stadium to raise money and wheel around the track while enjoying music, food and entertainment. Some people came in costumes, others earned prizes for the most "spirit." At one point, the event was even sponsored by Hagen-Daaz ice cream!

In addition to being a success fundraiser, the Wheelathon also raised awareness about wheelchair sports, though for many able-bodied people new to pushing a wheelchair this "awareness" came in the form of blisters on their hands the next day. The focus of the Wheelathon has always been that there are multiple ways to get around -- walking, pushing a wheelchair, rollerblading, bicycling, etc -- and all of these modes can exist together.

Though the Wheelathon no longer takes place, today we take a look back at an event that put the 'fun' back in fundraising. In addition to gathering some of the best Wheelathon Photos, we've unearthed a TV commercial from the first wheelathon and we've even got a news story from the 1994 Wheelathon.

Do you have a favourite Wheelathon memory? Share it in the comment box below or go on Facebook to leave us a message.

Footage from a TV commercial for the first annual Wheelathon:

A news story about the 1994 Wheelathon.

Wheelathon style at its finest.

Even heavy rains didn't deter participants...

They just brought their snorkels.

Gathering at the starting line.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Story 4: Capturing the Paralympic Spirit

Last March, BC caught Paralympic fever and several BC Wheelchair Sports Association members were honoured for their contribution to the wheelchair sports community by being named torchbearers for the Paralympic relay. We were on hand with our video camera to capture some of our members in action.

Here's a video look back at some of the excitement of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic relay. Feel free to share your memories of the Paralympics in the comment section below.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Story 3: Junior Wheelchair Sport Camps

Since the mid 1980s, BC Wheelchair Sports has hosted week-long summer sport camps for children with and without disabilities. Hundreds of kids and teens across the province have enjoyed the fun, friends and friendly competition that the camps provide. Whether they’re sailing, trying their hand at target sports, playing laser tag or enjoying the wrap-up pizza party, campers learn a variety of new skills and meet friends who have experienced similar circumstances. Veteran campers graduate to become Junior Leaders, giving them a valuable leadership experience, and many junior sports camps alumni have gone on to have successful careers in wheelchair sports.

Thank you to the many leaders, volunteers, medical staff and sponsors who have made these camps a reality over the years. Here’s a look back at some moments in junior sport camp history.

In 1989, BC hosted a Canada-wide sport camp for kids with disabilities.

Camp Spirit!

Trish Nicholson teaches sledge hockey to Nick Konishi

All smiles

Helping out

Trying out basketball