Walking a mile in their shoes

Joel van der Veen
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From left, SIAST students Brandon Schick, Jasmine Nickel, Bryn Olfert and Tayler Labelle complete one of the Walk A Mile obstacle courses on Thursday.

Until Thursday afternoon, Donna Houghton had never considered how hard it would be to ride in a wheelchair, her legs bound and her ears plugged, while attempting to carry a canoe along with a partner in the same situation.

Houghton, a financial services representative for Conexus Credit Union, found herself doing just that at the Walk A Mile Corporate Challenge in Wakamow Park, a fundraiser in support of a planned wheelchair-accessible playground.

The event was intended to raise money for the project as well as increase awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities, and it appeared to have succeeded at both aims.

“You don’t realize how hard it is,” said Houghton. “It made us more aware, for sure.”

Gisele Perrault, event co-ordinator and office administrator for Wakamow Valley Authority, said the challenge was the latest in a string of events to raise money for the playground project, which is expected to cost $165,000.

Teams of four, each representing local businesses, took part in a series of events, each designed to simulate the challenges faced by people with impaired mobility, vision and sight.

In one instance, one person sat in a wheelchair while a teammate pushed them along a path marked out in the sand surrounding a playground structure. Other challenges involved walking around in a maze with vision impairment glasses and using crutches to hobble around a circle.

Perhaps the most challenging was the canoe retrieval event in which Houghton took part. Many of the competitors struggled to maintain a grip on the canoe, even as teammates helped them out by pushing the wheelchairs along.

Perrault said the events were “slightly twisted,” adding that she and other organizers had tried to incorporate various disabilities into the afternoon.

“They are going to be challenging but we are going to have fun at the same time,” she said. Each competitor would literally have to “walk a mile” through the course of the afternoon.

For more information, see Friday's edition of the Times-Herald.

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