OTTAWA – The Canadian Paralympic Committee’s Petro-Canada Paralympic Schools Week 2015 produced record numbers as thousands of students from across Canada were wrapped in Paralympic spirit, learned about parasport and headed home informed, inspired and motivated.
More than 31,000 students from 320 schools participated in the event which ran from May 4-8. Schools from all 10 provinces were represented. A total of 17 Paralympians - with 42 medals between them- visited the schools where they gave presentations about their challenges and triumphs. Students were also prepped for this summer’s Parapan Am Games in Toronto.
“We are so pleased with the outstanding success of this years’ event, particularly on the eve of one of the largest home games events for summer sports in Canada,” said Karen O’Neill, CEO for the Canadian Paralympic Committee. “There was tremendous leadership and support by the many teachers and schools who have picked up the resource and are building the awareness of Paralympic sport.”
Three unique events were featured during the Paralympic Schools Week festivities. On Tuesday May 5, students from four Toronto area were invited to the Abilities Centre in Whitby for a Chat with Champions session – presented by Cisco Canada. The session, which was webcast live across the country, featured David Eng of Canada’s wheelchair basketball team and para-nordic skier Caroline Bisson in a 40-minute webinar hosted by retired Paralympic swimming star Philippe Gagnon.
“I was really impressed by the depth of the students’ questions,” said Gagnon, a triple gold medallist at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics. “They were really intrigued with our story and how we overcame obstacles to be successful. It was a great experience.”
“The students were very interested,” added Bisson. “They are intrigued by the Paralympic experience. It’s very encouraging for the future of the Paralympic movement.”
In the audience were schoolchildren who had been participating in CPC’s FUNdamental Physical Literacy Resource. This resource, which is a free download with ready-to-use lesson plans, aims to get all children active and engaged in developing fundamental movement skills through parasport.
A new fundraising initiative called #CoinsForCanada is an initiative to support CPC’s Para Equipment Fund. It educates and informs schoolchildren on the costs and access difficulties associated with para equipment. Schoolchildren were encouraged to bring coins to school each day during PSW to show that no matter how large or small the contribution they can make a meaningful impact.
There were two special school visits during the week. On Thursday May 7, Paralympic medallist Josh Vander Vies announced his retirement from boccia and his career was celebrated at Norma Rose Point School in Vancouver. Vander Vies explained to the students how being born without arms and legs did not put limits on his ambitions. Vander Vies will begin his career as a lawyer and continue his advocacy for all Canadian athletes as president of AthletesCAN.
On May 8, multiple Paralympic swimming champion and 2015 Parapan Am Games assistant Chef de Mission Stephanie Dixon captivated students at Fairlawn School in Brampton, Ont. Also on hand were the Minister of State (Sport) Bal Gosal, and Karen O’Neill, CEO of Canadian Paralympic Committee. The event concluded with Pachi the Porcupine, the mascot for the Parapan Am Games and school mascot Tails the Fox, entertaining the kids.
“This year was especially exciting for me as I was participating at a school in my hometown of Brampton, in the year of the Parapan Games in Toronto,” said Dixon, a 19-time Paralympic medallist. “You could feel the excitement in the room and I was very proud to share my story and celebrate the upcoming Games and the Year of Sport in Canada.”
The 17 para-athletes who participated in Paralympic Schools Week were Amy Alsop, Andrew Haley, Ashley Gowanlock, Brian Hill, Chelsea Gotell, Jared Funk, Josh Vander Vies, Joelle Rivard, Marc Dorion, Marie-Claude Molnar, Michelle Salt, Ryan Shay, Pamela Lejean, Paul Rosen, Sabrina Durepos, Sarah Mailhot and Stephanie Dixon.
Louis Daignault, Coordinator, Communications
Canadian Paralympic Committee
Tel: 613.569.4333 x237