Overcoming obstacles for a good cause

    The obstacle course for The Rick Hansen Wheels In Motion is fun but it also reminds participants how difficult life can be in a wheelchair, said Cathy Gillan, UPEI coordinator for the English for Academic Purposes program.

     Gillan and a group of her EAP students took part in the Charlottetown obstacle course last year, which raises money to help improve the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injuries.

     This year’s obstacle course is scheduled for Friday, July 10 at 3 p.m. Each team taking part in the event must consist of five participants and must raise an amount of $1,000 in order to compete. That would be $200 per person.

     Festivities planed for the event includes a wheel/walk for family and friends, entertainment, a barbecue and, of course, the Wheelchair Challenge itself.

     Gillan said during last year’s event contestants had to perform tasks which seemed simple at first but they would have to compete in a wheelchair while wearing oven mitts.

     “You would have to plug a cellphone into its charger, shoot a puck into a net, then you would have to go over to a table and bag groceries.”

     They were simple skills but they were made challenging because participants were in the wheelchair, she said.

     “Some of us were lousy with the chair and we had trouble getting around the obstacles.”

     “Luckily one of  our teammates is in a wheelchair, so we had an edge,” she said jokingly.

     Gillan said the event was fun and it was also a good opportunity for her EAP students to learn about charity and volunteerism.

     “They were unfamiliar with these concepts because they do not have these institutions in their home countries. They researched the charity and spinal chord injuries.”

     Gillan said they were also able to use the language skills they had learned in class as they interacted with other students when they raised money on campus.

     “It was a wonderful experience for them.”

     Holland College librarian, Leslie Holt, also took part in last year’s event. She said charity is a great cause and an eye opening experience.

     “You really get a feel for what it is like for people with spinal cord injuries and the struggle they face.”

     Holt said she is encouraging both students and staff to take part in the course this year but assures the amount to be raised is not as intimidating as it seems.

     “Each person must raise $200 but it isn’t as hard too raise the money as people might think.”

     Holt said the course had five stations which would have to be completed by all five members of the team.      

     “Each member of your team would stand beside each other in a straight line and after one person finished the course, it would be up to the next person in line to finish. This continues until all team members finish the course and the team to have all five members finish in the fastest time wins.”

     Holt said the event wasn’t too difficult but did admit it was hard to navigate the course in the wheelchair.

     “It was really hard with the oven mitts on but it was really fun.”

     Holt’s team consisted of her and students from Holland College’s English as a Second Language program.

     “It was really nice to have the ESL students take part and it was a good way to boost their team spirit. We even won the trophy for finishing in second place and it was a pretty big trophy.”

     She said she is trying to help make the event more well known because it is a good experience and a great charity.

     “It is a good way for people to face the adversity, people with spinal cord injuries face everyday.”

     Gillan said she is proud of her students for taking part in the event and proud to see them become part of the larger P.E.I. community.

     “I also walked away with the feeling that I have seen things from the perspective of people with spinal cord injuries.”

     “The event works in creating awareness and it is very successful.”      




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