Wheels in Motion Set to Roll

June 04, 2009 - News Release

It's been six years since the University of Guelph's Cyndy McLean helped bring the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion fundraiser to the Guelph community. Since then, hundreds have taken part in the annual event, raising awareness and more than $120,000 to help local people living with spinal cord injury.

“It’s been phenomenal,” said McLean, a former marathon runner who became paraplegic following a 2003 accident. For example, last year's funds were used to buy wheelchair-accessible fitness equipment for the Victoria Road Recreation Centre, a height-adjustable examination table for U of G’s Student Health Services and equipment and wheelchairs for Guelph residents with spinal cord injuries, among other things.

“But Wheels in Motion is about more than improving the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries,” said McLean. “It’s also about raising awareness and inspiring those around you to make a difference, and that’s exactly what people have done by supporting this event.”

This year’s Wheels in Motion is June 14 on the U of G campus. It begins at noon at the Athletics Centre, with registration at 11 a.m. In addition to the traditional “wheel, walk, run or bike” on a 2.5-kilometre course around campus, the day will feature a relay challenge that has teams in wheelchairs competing against one another to complete everyday tasks such as grocery shopping and getting dressed.

Wheels in Motion was started by Olympic wheelchair champion Rick Hansen, with half the funds raised supporting national spinal cord research and about half staying in Guelph to fund high-priority needs and services.

The honorary chair of this year’s event is Dan Harvey, a Guelph resident who fractured his neck in a trampoline mishap in 2003 and has quadriplegia. He will begin a master’s program this fall at the University of Western Ontario.

“Life after a spinal cord injury is certainly not over, which is a common misconception,” said Harvey. “Society still has a lot of learning to do. This event provides a much-needed source of education.”

It also helps provide funds for research that can aid the more the thousands of people who experience spinal cord injury each year, he said.

“Just like Rick Hansen, I hope to see the wheelchair as an object in a museum one day, but that will only be possible if events like the Wheels in Motion continue to attract attention.”

Leading up to the event, several Guelph community members will help generate awareness for the fundraiser and the challenges faced by people living with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities. One of them is Prof. Kevin Hall, vice-president (research), who will spend June 10 in a wheelchair.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Hall, a marathon runner, but he believes it’s important for people to understand the physical and emotional barriers faced everyday by people who are disabled.

“As able-bodied people, we take our ease of mobility for granted. This day in a wheelchair will allow me to experience these everyday barriers and hopefully provide a strong experiential background that I can draw on as an administrator at the University.”

For media questions, contact U of G Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt , 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338 or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982 or bagunn@uoguelph.ca.

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