Children with special needs had no problem adapting to the great outdoors this week.
Nanaimo Child Development Centre teamed up with Power to Be and SUP4ALL, two companies from Victoria and Comox specializing in adaptive kayaking, trail-riders and stand-up paddle boards, to host the centre’s first outdoor play day at Westwood Lake Park.
Children spent the day kayaking, riding trails or paddle-boarding on and around the lake with help from parents, volunteers and staff from CDC and participating companies.
The event was the brainchild of Melanie Rioux, a physiotherapist with Nanaimo Child Development Centre, who wanted children with mobility challenges to experience outdoor sports through adaptive sport programs, but found there are virtually no outdoor sports programs tailored to them.
“Every other kid that we know goes and plays soccer or skis, all these things that they can do,” Rioux said. “What really hit me is that I moved to B.C. because of the outdoors – I ski and I bike and things like that – and we all know the benefits of individual and group sports and, especially, in the outdoors and the connection to nature. It hit me hard that though I was in a place like B.C., the perfect outdoor place, all my kids had access to absolutely nothing.”
The event also featured exhibits from Island-based companies that focus on adaptive sport equipment and programs, such as Sportability, Motion Specialties, Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports and Vipamat, a company specializing in wheelchairs that can be reconfigured to ride on multiple terrain surfaces.
Rioux hopes to make putdoor play day – which ran for five hours and had more than a dozen children and their parents take part – an annual event and bring more adaptive sport programs to Nanaimo.
“What people should know about this event is that most of the exhibitors and activities, they actually came from Comox, Victoria and Vancouver,” Rioux said. “They’re not in Nanaimo and that’s what we want. We want to bring those activities next door. They should be able to drive just 10 minutes to go do those activities, not have to drive two hours or take the ferry.”