On September 22nd the Ready Willing and Able van was jam-packed with equipment as it hit the road for a “just under two weeks” road trip north. In partnership with Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association (OWSA) and supported by a grant through SCI Action, ParaSport Ontario was taking a trip to visit Thunder Bay with stops along the way in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. The first stop was Sudbury where ParaSport Ontario and supporting the creation of an Accessible Sports Council (ASC) and the development of ParaSport programs including ParaNordic Skiing, at Walden Ski and Country Club, and an Adapted Rowing program. ParaSport Ontario, OWSA, Walden’s ParaNordic ski program and Sudbury’s Sport Council, SportLink, visited 4 schools to create awareness of ParaSport opportunities and allow the students the chance to try out the sports first hand. On the Saturday, OWSA brought Ontario guru of wheelchair basketball, Variety Village Coach Steve Bialowas to meet and run a clinic for the Sudbury Rolling Thunder, Sudbury’s wheelchair basketball team. The team was thrilled to attend the session to learn new skills and drills. Following the session at Cambrian College, the aforementioned organizations ran a “Try It” Day for the community allowing any individuals with physical disabilities to try out various sporting equipment and how to get involved.
Then it was time to pack up the van and head to Sault Ste. Marie where ParaSport Ontario is also helping to support the development of an Accessible Sports Council as well as a multi-sport club. The visit was short but included visiting more schools where students enjoyed their afternoon of trying out wheelchair basketball, ParaNordic skiing, sledge hockey, wheelchair curling and boccia.
The RWA van arrived in Thunder Bay for the RecreationAble Inclusive Recreation Forum taking place from September 29th to October 1st. Highlighted speakers included Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Code, Amy Roloff from the TV show “Little People Big World”, and break dancing sensation Luca ‘Lazylegz’ Patuelli. On the Wednesday night, ParaSport Ontario and OWSA hosted a Recreation Night at the Sports Dome to provide a chance for all of the attendees to check out and try the various ParaSports for themselves as well as individuals from the community. Jill Valentine, Development Manager at ParaSport Ontario and Cortney Benedict, Provincial Manager at OWSA presented on ParaSport opportunities and how to develop opportunities in ones community. The presentation was very well received and Thunder Bay embraced the idea of community development, specifically starting up a sledge hockey club. Also very well received was the launch of the Ontario ParaSport Resource Directory which outlines all clubs and programs across the province as well as information about the sports, provincial sport organizations and how to get involved.
Overall the trip was a great success with many new friends and contacts being made in Northern Ontario and ParaSport Ontario is excited to continue to create awareness and opportunities within those communities.