• Story 24: The Wheelchair Loan Program

In the mid-nineties, BCWSA Director of Sport Gail Hamamoto took some track athletes to Alberta for a clinic. Many of the BC athletes she brought were pushing “outdated clunkers” and Gail was impressed when the Alberta staff brought out several brand new chairs thanks to their wheelchair loan program.

“I knew that we had to get a similar program going in BC,” recalled Gail. “So I went home and told Kathy Newman about it and we began applying for grants. The CKNW Orphans’ Fund was our biggest supporter and slowly other organizations came on board and we just kept amassing chairs.”

Today, BC Wheelchair Sports has 75 chairs to loan out to athletes. BC Wheelchair Basketball has a further 130 chairs. Thanks to this program, athletes in wheelchair tennis, athletics, rugby, basketball and floor hockey no longer have to worry about the financial burden of purchasing a chair. Considering that a sports chair costs at least $3000 — and many cost significantly more — the wheelchair loan program eliminates one of the biggest barriers to participation that new athletes face.

“It’s enabled hundreds of new people to get involved,” said Gail. “It’s also allowed athletes to try out chairs to understand what set-up works for them before they invest in buying one. We understand, however, that many athletes will never have the financial means to purchase their own chair, so they can use our chairs for as long as they’re playing.”

Want more info on the wheelchair loan program? Click here.