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Willow's Story:

Sitting on the sidelines all the time didn’t suit 16 year old Willow Tkachuk.

The rural-based teenager wanted to be up doing whatever the other kids were doing. His schoolwork was beginning to suffer. Willow has cerebral palsy and walks with two crutches, making it impossible for him to participate fully in the school gym period, without some help.

The solution? The Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba in partnership with Winnipeg’s Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation bought him a Quickie All Court Sports Chair.

The chair was specified by occupational therapist Michéle Hebert and made to exact specifications, based on Willow’s height, weight and potential for growth in the next five years. The cost: just under $5000. “A wheelchair has to be like wearing a glove; the fit has to be perfect,” explains OT Michéle Hebert.

What makes a sports wheelchair different from others used on a daily basis? The chair is lighter in weight; its seat back is lower and the angle of the wheels, called the camber, is angled outwards on each side, creating a wider base. A cross bar over a footrest protects the player’s feet. The single wing bumper, as the footrest is called, allows Willow to stabilize himself as he moves. With a smaller turning axis, he can turn on a dime.

Although Willow had never driven a wheelchair before he received this one, he had no problems. “Once Michéle showed me where to put my hands and go, I just did it,” he said. “I’ve never backed into any of the other players though I’m the only one in a chair.”

Fellow students, the gym teacher and the school happily made the necessary adaptations for Willow to play sports.

Funds for the sports chair were raised at the Cerebral Palsy Stationary Bike Race, the major fundraiser for the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba. The one-day event, scheduled for March 8 2014, raised $184,000 last year. All money raised stays in the province and funds a personal-support worker program, scholarships, equipment grants and a one-person office, offering advocacy and support for individuals and families living with cp.

Willow Tkachuk attends the Shevchenko School in Vita, Manitoba with his sister, Emily. He is now a full participant in all gym games. He’s a good interview.

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