Wheels in Motion Gets in Gear

May 21, 2008 - News Release

Ensuring that recreational and fitness opportunities are available for people with spinal cord injury (SCI) is the focus of the fifth annual Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion event running June 8 at the University of Guelph.

"People with spinal cord injury often have difficulty being physically active and involved in sports and recreation,” said Cyndy McLean, director of the Health and Performance Centre and a member of the local Wheels in Motion organizing committee. "Oftentimes this is due to the limited number of wheelchair-accessible facilities, equipment and programming available in our region."

McLean, a former marathon runner and elite-level athlete who was left paraplegic after falling off a cliff in 2003, says being active is vital to overall health and well-being.

"A spinal cord injury can happen in a moment, but the effects last a lifetime. Being regularly active is necessary for good health, but it is also an important factor in maintaining independence and quality of life. We want to ensure that people with SCI in the Guelph area have options available to them."

Most of the money raised at this year’s event will stay in Guelph and be used to buy wheelchair-accessible fitness equipment for the city’s Victoria Road Recreation Centre. Proceeds will also support the purchase of a height-adjustable medical examination table for U of G’s Student Health Services.

"These are two very worthy projects that will allow us to continue to improve access to recreation and health services for people with SCI and other disabilities," McLean said.

In the past five years, Wheels in Motion has raised more than $100,000 for people living with SCI. Some of the "Quality of Life”"funding raised last year also supported the fitness-related activities and interests of Guelph residents. This support included the purchase of an arm ergometer, a sports wheelchair, a fitness membership for a member of the national wheelchair basketball team, and a wheelchair adaptation that permits easier use of the local trail system.

The 2008 event begins at noon at the Athletics Centre, with registration at 10:30 a.m. A highlight of the day is the Scotiabank Wheelchair Challenge, which has teams of five competing against one another to complete a variety of day-to-day activities in a wheelchair. People can also collect pledges and then wheel, walk, bike or run a 2.5-kilometre course on campus.

Numerous activities throughout the day will be geared to families and children, including a free barbecue and an arts and crafts area. President Alastair Summerlee is the honorary chair of the event and will participate again this year in a wheelchair.

Wheels in Motion was started by Olympic wheelchair champion Rick Hansen. McLean, who was instrumental in bringing the event to Guelph, is a national ambassador for the Rick Hansen Man in Motion Foundation.

McLean will actually miss this year’s event because she’ll be representing Canada at the wheelchair tennis World Team Cup in Cremona, Italy. She took up the sport following her accident.

"Five years ago, broken and battered, I would have never dreamed that I’d be playing international competitive tennis," she says. 'Although this will take me away from Guelph during the Wheels in Motion event, my participation in this tournament is in keeping with our theme this year: the importance of staying active, involved and physically fit."

For more information about the event, visit www.wheelsinmotion.org or call McLean at 519 824-4120, Ext. 53319.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or l.hunt@exec.uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or d.healey@exec.uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1