By Maddie Keenlyside
March 14, 2014
Cathleen MacKinnon loves her job.
One of her most memorable career experiences happened shortly after she started working for ParaSport and Recreation P.E.I., she said.
She met a teenage boy who loved hockey, but couldn’t play because he had spina bifida. His brothers were able-bodied and played hockey, but he never had a chance.
Then he attended one of Parasport P.E.I.’s Have-A-Go events, involving a few members of Team Canada including Billy Bridges, she said.
“I have never seen someone so excited to try a sport out. When he got in that sled he never got out for the whole two hours.”
Now interim executive director at ParaSport P.E.I., MacKinnon has worked in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as well.
“It’s so rewarding to see our athletes from the moment they start a sport and grow to competing at international events.”
On March 25, the P.E.I. Physical Activity summit will take place at Holland College. The main goal of the summit is to highlight the need for parasport in the curriculum, she said.
“[Teachers] will learn about the role of parasport on P.E.I. and elsewhere, and the joy and challenges parasport athletes face on P.E.I.
“As well, teachers will see, first-hand, several parasports and how to participate in them.”
They will also take part in discussions regarding the challenges of incorporating parasport and other inclusive practices into their physical education curriculum, she said.
Ben Marston, Parasport Coordinator at Sport Nova Scotia, said he has been involved in parasports ever since he developed a spinal cord injury back in 1997.
“After I returned home, I just found it really hard to find anything to get involved with. That’s when myself, and two others, started the wheelchair basketball program. It was all volunteers, but it was a wheelchair sport federation here in Nova Scotia.”
Working in parasports is very rewarding, he said.
“Most of the new injuries and younger kids, it’s just a lot of fun to get them involved. Especially with kids, you’re trying to give them the opportunity to become independent.”
Marston said the parasports community has been growing throughout the Maritimes, and teams throughout the region frequently collaborate. Including able-bodied athletes helps with numbers in the team sports, but also gives them an opportunity to learn about each other, he said.
“It’s grown leaps and bounds – and that’s in all the provinces. It’s been great. I can only hope it grows a lot more.”
MacKinnon said the Canadian Paralympic Committee and P.E.I. Island Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will be hosting the summit alongside ParaSport and Recreation P.E.I.