For parents of children with disabilities, the focus tends to be more on physiotherapy and rehabilitation then it is on being physically active.
A new sports club out of Langley is hoping to change that.
For the past number of years, the Langley Gold Rush — set up and run by Langley’s Mitch Kosterman whose son Jack has represented Canada in the sport — has offered local youth the chance to play wheelchair basketball.
And building on that program, the Fraser Valley Wheelchair Sports Club is holding a Let’s Play Day on Sunday (May 15) at the David E. Enarson Gymnasium on the Trinity Western University campus (7600 Glover Rd.) from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
Club is for all athletes, not just those with disabilities
The club is for both able-bodied and those with disabilities and is being organized by a trio of local mothers — Darlene Antoniuk, Carol Norris and Brenda Aukema — who all have sons the same age involved in the sport.
The aim is to branch out over time and begin offering more than just wheelchair basketball, Antoniuk explained.
But the main goal is to keep active.
“I have seen lots of kids with special needs through things that Ben has done and it is shocking that things that (other) kids have learned to do, they don’t seem to learn,” she explained, using catching a ball as an example.
Ben has spina bifida but with his family actively involved with sports, he has always been around the games.
When Ben, now 15, was at Langley Christian in Grade 8, he was looking forward to taking PE.
The school wasn’t use to this, but was able to accommodate him in the class.
“And they (LCS) have been really good about it but it is not a concept that people think about.”
“And that is the concept that we want to change. All kids need to be active, all kids need to have cardio fitness because their health depends on it and their brain activity as much as any other child.”
Physical activity essential
The importance of physical activity is very clear right now as Ben is recovering from spinal surgery.
“He is so lethargic because his body is craving physical activity,” she said.
Norris’s son Matthew, who is 16, also has spina bifida but his was a much more livable form meaning until he was 10, he was able to walk on his own. But after back surgery and some complications, he lost the independent use of his right leg.
“We went from being without any aids to having wheelchairs, crutches and walkers, which for him was quite an adjustment,” Norris said.
“Getting a sports chair and getting the ability to play basketball … it took away the disability.”
“He was quite depressed for about 18 months and the bright spot was being able to play basketball. He loves to go fast and it gave him that avenue to go as fast as possible,” she added.
For Aukema, her son Joel, 15, is able-bodied but he got involved in wheelchair basketball as a way to hang out with Ben, a friend from school.
“And here we are five years later,” she said. “Joel has absolutely grown to love the sport. It has opened up a different world, different opportunities.”
Part of those opportunities are attending a pair of B.C. Winter Games where he helped the Fraser Valley win gold in both 2014 and 2016 in the sport.
Let’s Play BC helps provide sports wheelchairs
The club is being helped by Let’s Play BC, an initiative of the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society which provides access to sport wheelchairs and other resources so children can develop the skills they need to confidently participate in play, sport and physical education with their peers.
Marni Abbott-Peter, who has won gold in paraswimming and wheelchair basketball while representing Canada during her distinguished career, said it is important to get kids involved in sport when they are young.
“When kids are young, parents are sometimes focused on physiotherapy and the medical side of things and they sometimes forget that kids still need to play,” she said. She is the director of the Let’s Play program.
“I am just bringing back that play aspect and reminding them that there is fun in life still.”
The new Fraser Valley club is the 11th in the province.
For more information, the club is on Facebook under Fraser Valley Wheelchair Sports Club or can be reached at FVwheelchairsports@gmail.com.