COVID-19 took the world by surprise in March of 2020 – ultimately shutting down the world and presenting an array of new challenges for our society. As we fluctuate between various states of restrictions, our past year at MWSA has seen some new challenges and opportunities for our organization. But more inspiring, is the continued generosity of organizations and the citizens of our province – providing much needed funding and support for our athletes and our organization.
As we find ourselves in another provincial lockdown, we wanted to warm up the atmosphere by sharing a couple of these stories of generosity that are paving the way for success for our athletes.
MWSA was beyond excited to learn that we were the recipient of a $32,350 grant from Canadian Tire Jumpstart’s Sport Relief Fund. This fund saw $8 million invested in communities across Canada, and we were fortunate to become one of the 668 sport organizations across the country to benefit from this fund. This grant was to purchase five new wheelchairs and eight pairs of Spinergy tires – addressing some of the needs of our aging equipment. Through working with our vendor Prairie Velo, we were able to secure an additional pair of spinergy wheels as part of this grant.
However, it wasn’t until the equipment arrived in April 2021 that we realized how large of an impact this grant actually was. When we placed the wheels on our program’s wheel rack, it took up about 75% of the available space on that rack. This rack typically houses all the wheels that our program uses. This meant that in essence we increased our available tires on the floor by that amount.
“Equipment is a constant barrier to participation in accessible sport. Seeing this new equipment re-energizing our programs can only mean positive outcomes for our community” – Samuel Unrau, Executive Director
Additionally, the five new wheelchairs present other opportunities as well, as they have been bought to offer new sizing opportunities within our programs. By having these new chairs, we can continue to ensure that accessible sport is available to every body that comes out to our programs. This is a important piece in feeling included and a part of the community.
The Tabs for Wheelchairs program in Winnipeg has been an amazing organization providing specialized wheelchairs to members in the community. In this past year, two of our athletes have received new basketball wheelchairs from the Tabs program. Rylan Bileski received his second basketball wheelchair which will provide him with a better fit as he progresses along his athletic journey in wheelchair basketball. Our second athlete, Caleb, received his first sport wheelchair. We are excited that he can utilize this chair in our programming but also out in the community wherever he chooses to have fun.
MWSA has been honoured to receive over 8 wheelchairs from the Tabs program over the last few years, which go into our programming and provide a positive experience for those who are new to our sports. As mentioned earlier in this article, we were experiencing an issue with aging equipment, but the renewal of available equipment plus new sizes, including our first “minis” wheelchairs, have become a huge hit with our members.
MWSA is proud of the work of the Tabs for Wheelchair program and encourages anyone who is interested in making a difference to start collecting tabs from pop cans in order to support the efforts of this organization. If you have any questions about how to get involved, please ask our office!
The Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation is another great organization helping our members thrive in the community. This year, through their Giving Tuesday campaign, they were able to raise enough money for Teo Roy to receive a new basketball wheelchair. As Teo has grown over the last couple of years, a new wheelchair provides a better fit for him as he continues his journey with the Provincial Team in Wheelchair Basketball.
Our last feature is from Wheelchair Rugby Canada. Every year, WRC provides funding to clubs and PSOs across Canada to support the development of wheelchair rugby in our country. With COVID-19, it presented a different challenge as programs across the country were suspended, and travel to competitions was non-existent. However, the 76ers Wheelchair Rugby Club received some great news in that WRC would help fund a new wheelchair rugby chair for one of our newest athletes Reese. Combined with other grant opportunities, we are hoping to see Reese in a brand new rugby wheelchair in the near future.