Every year, hundreds of people with disabilities across Canada get their start in wheelchair sports thanks to the Bridging the Gap program. Our participants are a wide range of ages, disabilities, genders, experience levels and fitness levels, but they all have one thing in common: a willingness to try something new.
To showcase the diversity of our participants, every month we’ll highlight a participant from a different province. This month, our Participant of the Month is Dean Stoney, of British Columbia.
What sports did you play prior to acquiring a spinal cord injury?
Prior to being injured, I was primarily a swimmer, a cyclist and a seasonal golfer. I hadn’t participated in organized sports for nearly 20 years.
How did you get involved in wheelchair sports?
During my stay at G.F. Strong [Rehabilitation Centre], I knew I needed a new way to get my exercise, since my prior activities were now off the table. Through some of the rec programs as well as participating in Have A Go Days, I found I really enjoyed being in the team environment.
What was it like getting used to playing sports in a wheelchair?
It was difficult at first as I was pretty fresh out of the hospital and not in the best of shape. I had lost a lot of muscle mass due to being laid up for so long. I was just getting used to getting around in a typical day chair and all of a sudden I was tossing myself into a situation that required a lot more speed and strength. Like anything else though, the body started to adapt and really even now 18 months later is still adapting.
What wheelchair sports do you play now?
I’m currently involved in the drop-in sessions being hosted in Port Moody’s Rec Centre in Ioco and more recently the drop-in wheelchair basketball at the Edmonds Rec Centre in Burnaby. When it’s in season I also participate in the Tim Frick Wheelchair Basketball City League.
What do you get out of participating in programs like the Port Moody wheelchair sports drop-in program?
Foremost it gives me that extra push to get out of the house and be more active, but its also just plain fun to get together with a like-minded group and just play.
What role has participating in wheelchair sports played in your recovery/ adapting to an SCI?
It has kept me far more active than I would have been otherwise, giving me a cardio workout that I otherwise would have been missing out on. It’s also shown me that there is more out there for me other than just work and home post injury, seeing the huge diversity of people involved in sports at all levels with a broad range of disabilities is inspiring.
What would you say to people with disabilities thinking of getting involved in wheelchair sports?
Either through a rec therapist or via BC Wheelchair Sports find out when the next local ‘Have A Go’ day is scheduled and head on out there to give it a whirl. There are a lot of different sports out there, both team and individual based. Take full advantage and head on out and give it them a shot. There are still sports out there I would love to try and just haven’t found the time, the amount that is available is near overwhelming!