Eleven young individuals who have sustained life changing spinal cord injuries came together for a three day adventure camp in Whistler this weekend. The camp provided three days of of adrenaline, adventure, bonding, and new experiences for a group of young adults who are in the process of figuring out to navigate life with a new and challenging physical disability. Each of the participants have all shared a dramatic life changing experience in the past five years- they are wheelchair users between four months and three years post spinal cord injury.
Campers and Volunteers traveled from all over British Columbia, Calgary, California and Ontario to attend the camp. The camp was fully subsidized for campers by the Live It! Love It! Foundation’s Keg fund ($25 000 granted by the Keg Steakhouse earlier this summer).
The weekend began on Thursday afternoon with introductions and a presentation on fear and longing by para- sport mental training coach John Coleman (Canmore, AB) and a delicious BBQ at the Athletes Village in Whistler. Dinner was followed by a quick bonfire for the Campers near the Cheakamus River.
By 10:00am friday morning the Live It! Love It! Crew was overlooking the Cal Cheak River getting harnessed up to fling themselves off a bridge with Whistler Bungee. With Go Pro’s (headcams) on their chairs, each and every camper took a turn diving or backflipping off the bridge. Apparently the bungee stoke was contagious, by noon almost every family member, volunteer and friend had signed a waiver to jump to bungee!
After Bungee Jumping the crew gathered at Wayside Park to refuel and relax. The sun was shining and a few of the boys raced their wheelchairs off the end of the dock into the lake. The rest of the group ate lunches compliments of Creekside Market, checked out the go pro footage from Bungee Jumping and chilled out on the grass.
At 2:30pm volunteers from Whistler Adaptive Sports Program came over to escort the group to Captain Holiday’s cabin for a kayaking session. Friends showed up in canoes and kayaks and volunteers and instructors from WASP were amazing getting everyone in boats and on the water.
The afternoon was spent working on paddling skills, wet exits, t- rescues and playing an intense round of kayak polo between the docks. The group paddled until 6:30pm and then booted back over to the park for a Chili cookout. Stuffed with more delicious food everyone headed back to the Athletes Village for another mental training session with John and called it a night.
Saturday morning. 8:30 am and Whistler ATV had everyone set up on quads to go for a rip. For two hours they flew up the Callaghan Valley to some gorgeous views, rode around the logging roads, splashed through creeks and back down to the base. With dusty faces, muddy feet and big smiles everyone congregated at the bottom for lunch and Live It! Love It! trivia for prizes from CLIF Bar.
After lunch the crew dispersed, some heading to Whistler Village, some home for a nap and some to the lake for another swim. At 4:00pm they reconvened at Wildplay Element Parks at Cougar Mountain to attach the Zoom Ziplines. Accompanied by an unreal team of helpers, the campers put on full body harnesses, were helped into an old military truck and brought up to the lines. With the help of some strong backs and a trailrider to get up a steep ramp all of the Campers clipped into the ziplines and were sent off. They rallied all over the park and back into the truck to come back down the road.
Afterwards the group 35 campers, friends and family headed over to Creekbread in Whistler for pizza and beer and to celebrate an awesome two days. Most of the party relocated to the village after dinner for a free Sam Roberts concert and rocked out in the Olympic Plaza.
Sunday- The final day of the camp. Breakfast was met with a few goodbyes as some of the Campers headed to Pemberton Soaring Center to go soaring in a glider plane around the Pemberton meadows. The rest headed to Squamish where they met up with quadriplegic climber Brad Zdanivsky who was hosting a climbing session at the Jericho wall with his special climbing rig for quad and paraplegics. Everyone took their turn muscling themselves the top of the wall as climbers walked by and stared in awe at the remarkable feat of climbing using only upper body. Views of the Squamish Chief and surrounding area were taken in by everyone as they rested at the top before the belay down.
The camp closed with talk of reunions and the next adventure as the sun set over the Sea to Sky Highway Sunday evening. It was a beautiful weekend of many firsts, many smiles and many amazed bystanders as a group of super charged paraplegics and quadriplegics bungee jumped, ziplined, dove into lakes, kayaked, four wheeled and climbed up mountains. Congratulations to all of the Campers for testing their limits and living and loving every minute of it!
Freewheel Whistler 2011 would not have been possible without:
The Keg Steakhouse
Whistler Adaptive Sports Program & Volunteers
Whistler ATV & Ben Thompson
Wildplay (The Adventure Group)
Meal Crew: Sarah Lynch, Rod Megill, Simone Lehane
Volunteers: Tom Hall, Dirk Gidney, Jeff Thompson, Britt, Pam McGauley, Rob McGauley, Chris McGauley, TJ Bickerton, Gordon Timm, Cody Haggard, Chris Colpitts, Pierrot Berniet, Cindy Drouin, Nadia Samer, Austin Ross, Amy Ross, Sue Ross, Jeff Crompton, Casey Brown, Andy Winkler
Film & Photography: Zoya Lynch, Kristy Strang, Russ Herman
The incredible: Mike Seinen, Ethan Krueger, Stan Ho, Blake Jamieson, Jeff Scott, Landon McGauley, Amanda Timm, Tristan Smyth & Caleb Brosseau.