Christmas for Paralympians is a family affair

December 23, 2015

David Eng, Nik Goncin, Bo hedges

Located on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the northern part of Peace River country, Dead Horse Creek Ranch is a Christmas paradise for city slickers. Bo Hedges gets to return to the family cattle and horse ranch near Fort St. John, B.C. every year to get re-acquainted with his family.

“My brothers and sister still live in Fort St. John so we get to spend a great week together,” said Hedges, a member of Canada’s wheelchair basketball team and now based in Toronto. “If the weather permits we go snowmobiling and sliding. But mainly it’s meals, gifts and board games.”

In fact, the Paralympians we spoke to at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Media Summit in Toronto on December 9 stick to a traditional Canadian Christmas including Hedges’ teammates Nik Goncin, born in Sarajevo and now in Regina, and David Eng, whose father is Chinese and mother Italian.

The Goncins, who immigrated to Canada with three-year-old Nic in 1994 during the Bosnian War maintain one important tradition.

“There is a family we became acquainted with when we arrived and we visit them every year at Christmas,” said Goncin. “They taught my parents English and we’ve been going there for 17 years. Otherwise we’ve been in Canada for such a long time that’s it’s a pretty similar Christmas to every Canadian.”

Eng, also on the wheelchair basketball team, was born and raised in Montreal. His father was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada as a youngster while his mother is Montreal-born from Italian immigrants.

“Our family Christmases have been rejuvenated with nephews and nieces so it’s really special to see them experience this at their young ages,” said Eng, who has two brothers and a sister. “Plus my fiancée is a big Christmas fanatic and collects ornaments and other seasonal paraphernalia and really loves to decorate.”

The Canadian Paralympic Committee wishes all a safe and happy holiday season.