Campus News

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

News Release

May 28, 2004

Wheels in Motion to raise funds, awareness of spinal cord injuries

The University of Guelph is hosting a Wheels in Motion event June 13 to raise awareness and funds to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. It is the first time the university, the city of Guelph and Guelph Services for Persons with Disabilities have taken part in the national fundraiser.

The event will be held at the university’s W. F. Mitchell Athletics Centre from noon to 2 p.m. (registration is at 11a.m.) Participants obtain pledges individually or as part of a team and then wheel, bike, skate, run or walk a two-kilometre course around campus. There will also be a barbecue, obstacle course, music and awards. Wheels in Motion is the initiative of Rick Hansen, a Canadian Olympic wheelchair marathon champion who wheeled 40,000 kilometres to raise money for research and services. Fundraisers are scheduled in hundreds of communities across Canada.

Guelph’s event is being co-chaired by Cyndy McLean, director of U of G’s Health and Performance Centre, who suffered a tragic fall last June 13 and is now paraplegic; and Dan Harvey, a 18 year-old Guelph youth who fractured his neck in a trampoline accident and has quadriplegia. McLean and Harvey became close friends after spending months in the same rehabilitation hospital. “Our goal is to have a positive event in Guelph and set a foundation so that we can continue to build from it in the future,” McLean said.

Wheels in Motion comes on the one-year anniversary of McLean’s accident. She was walking on a Michigan peninsula with her dog when they both fell more than 100 feet off a cliff. McLean, who is also heading a team of 40 people who have raised more than $4,000, says she hopes the event helps educate people about the challenges of living with a spinal cord injury. “Most people think a spinal cord injury means you sit in a chair and that’s the end of it. It’s only the beginning. There are so many other things.”

For example, people with spinal cord injuries are often in constant pain, requiring rehabilitative therapy and special care, she said. Some 84 per cent of spinal cord injuries happen to people under age 34, so health care and equipment over a lifetime can cost millions of dollars. Equipment is also expensive, with wheelchairs costing thousands of dollars, exercise equipment upwards of $12,000 and specially altered vehicles as much as $60,000.

Half of the proceeds raised from Wheels in Motion are directed to needs identified in the host community. Some of Guelph’s top priorities are improved access and transportation and equipment for exercise and therapy. “Currently, you are allowed roughly six months of rehabilitative therapy,” McLean said. “When your time is up, there is not a facility in Guelph where you can go to exercise. None of the local gyms have the necessary equipment.”

The remaining funds go toward research. About 90 per cent of what is known about spinal cord injuries has been discovered in the past decade, McLean said. “I recognize that I may never walk again, but supporting research may mean that 10 years down the road, someone who is injured may benefit from immediate intervention and have the potential to recover.”

McLean was still in hospital when she received a call last October asking for her help with Wheels in Motion. She didn’t learn that it was scheduled for June 13 until much later, but welcomes the diversion on the one-year anniversary of her accident. “I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I believe that sometimes, things happen that we can’t always explain.”

Pledge forms for Wheels in Motion are available at branches of Scotia Bank, through the Web site,, or by calling (519) 836-1812, Ext. 0.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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