Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 24, 2006

Summerlee to Spend Day in Wheelchair to Raise Awareness

University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee will spend Monday, June 5, in a wheelchair to help raise awareness of the upcoming Wheels in Motion event and the challenges faced by people living with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities.

Summerlee will attend meetings as usual that day and will also take a brief campus “tour” with Cyndy McLean, director of U of G’s Health and Performance Centre and an organizer of the Guelph Wheels in Motion. The annual national event raises money for spinal cord research, and U of G is the primary sponsor of the Guelph event, which will be held on campus June 11.

About half of the funds raised through the event stay in the host community to fund high-priority needs and services; the remaining funds go to support national spinal cord research. Locally, the funding has gone to provide services, assistance and resources to people with spinal cord injuries.

“I’m all for putting people in wheelchairs for a day if it raises awareness,” said McLean, a former marathon runner and elite-level athlete who was left paraplegic after falling more than 100 feet off a cliff in 2003.

“Usually the experience of being in a chair, even if it’s just for a short time, gives people new understanding of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities. They learn that little things they take for granted, like going to the library or crossing campus to get some lunch, can be a regular challenge for people in a wheelchair.”

Last year, Summerlee participated in Wheels in Motion, which involves people walking, biking, wheeling or running a two-kilometre course on campus, in a wheelchair. He said he found the experience “eye-opening and challenging” and plans to participate again June 11.

In the past two years, more than 300 people have taken part in the Guelph event either as individuals or as part of a team, raising more than $40,000. The Health and Performance Centre team, headed by McLean, raised more than $24,000 of that amount. Last year, the team raised the second-highest amount of money of any team in Canada. As a prize, the team was awarded a wheelchair, which will go to Guelph elementary school student Terry Song.

This year’s event begins at noon at U of G’s Athletics Centre, with registration starting at 11 a.m.

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

To participate in Wheels in Motion, contact McLean at or Guelph Wheels in Motion chair Donna Leigh White at Information is also available on the website

Note to media: For details on president Alastair Summerlee’s itinerary for that day or to arrange a short interview or photo, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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