Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day 192 Innisfail to Red Deer, Alberta

Day 192, winter is staying around almost as long as the relay itself!

Back on shuttle one again with Kayla, our medal bearer meeting point this morning was at the home of the Mustangs, Innisfail middle school.

This wall in the entrance foyer was adorned with tiles that together created separate pictures. This is the third or fourth time I have seen these ceramic portraits in schools in Alberta.
The school gym was packed for the Rick Hansen 25th anniversary relay celebration. The only thing missing was.............

The medal bearers! They were supposed to be let into the gym through the band room, but someone forgot to unlock the door.

especially the life-long learning.

Outside of Innisfail middle school the students from the neighbouring John Wilson elementary school were lining up on the streets to see the relay go by.
The medal bearer (name escapes me) was excited (and it showed) when she found out her segment had her carrying the medal past the school kids.

After Kayla and I dropped off our last medal bearer, we headed to our next meeting point in Red Deer. We got ahead of our pilot vehicle, but not for long!

Heading into Red Deer, population 90,500

Our meeting point was at Red Deer College.
Our meeting was in the front lobby of the arts centre. It was quiet, bright, and open, which made for a great meeting point.

There is a local radio contest going on in Red Deer, where the contestants have  to get a picture of the cardboard Harely in unique settings. One of the contestants spotted our medal bearers and asked if they could take a pic.

We had two medal bearers today, Carol and Jason, who were nominated by one of the 25th anniversary relay sponsors. London Drugs. Quite a few of the employees of the local London Drugs came out to support their difference makers.

Once the medal bearers are on the bus, they do a lot of texting and phoning to make sure their friends and family know where their segment is starting.
The medal bearers and our endurance athlete Sony stop for another group shot at a community stop at the Red Deer Hospital.

We always try and stay at least one medal bearer (250 metres) ahead of the  convoy. I can see them coming in my side mirror, time to move ahead!

Check the rear-view mirror, only two medal bearers left before we hit our end of day 192 celebration at the Red Deer college gymnasium.

Not to be confused, Kyle ((who is usually a host, but is working in the pilot vehicle today (making sure we go the right way and drop off medal bearers when we are supposed to)), has snuck on the shuttle to get a picture with our second to last medal bearer of the day, Stephanie. Here is her amazing story:

My name is Stephanie . I am 20 years old and am currently in my third year at the Red Deer College in the field of Kinesiology

completing the Fitness and Health Promotion diploma. My plan is to transfer to Comosum College in Victoria, B.C. where I will complete my

degree in Kinesiology, Athletic Therapy & Exercise Therapy. I was born and raised in Red Deer, Alberta along with 2 brothers (Lucas-deceased,

and Matthew, 15). During my life I have had to face many adversities. For 7 years my family consisted of 5 people: my mom, dad, and two

younger brothers (Lucas & Matthew). I believe that everyone goes through a time of hardship in their life; whether, it is a death of someone

you love, an accident or illness, and/or facing some kind of disability. I suffered a traumatic brain injury when I was 7 years old and have a few

secondary disabilities as a result. I have epilepsy and I have helped others in my community and school learn about epilepsy by speaking at

conferences & to classes about brain injuries/epilepsy (ie. my grade 8 class after I had major brain surgery in which my head was shaved); by

talking about my seizure disorders with my teachers and friends so they knew what to expect (especially after having I had a seizure); and

merely by going on with everyday life like everyone else. With the support from family, friends, teachers, coaches, the community, hope, faith,

and physical strength I have learnt to cope and even overcome my disabilities and epilepsy.

I know what it is like when your entire life changes in an instant. On a cloudy rainy day in May, when I was a little girl at the age of seven, my

family and I were out spending family time together and running some errands (to buy a birthday present for my dad since his birthday was

the next day). All of a sudden, this huge Semi truck started coming straight towards us. My dad swerved into the ditch to try to avoid the truck

but did not make it; the Semi hit us on the driver’s side. I lost my dad and funniest brother that day. Luckily my mom, little brother (Matthew)

and I survived but the bad news was that my brother and I suffered traumatic brain injuries and the effects of these injuries including epilepsy.

My brother will always be dependent on others for his care because he is in a wheelchair; he cannot walk and has trouble speaking and has

difficulty with other life skills. This was a moment in my life where I felt like everything and everybody had been taken away from me. My dad

and brother had died; my little brother and I were stuck with injuries that would not go away. My life completely changed. A part of me had

died and I never thought I would be able to deal with what had happened to my family and me.

Afterwards , I wondered why? Why did that accident have to happen to me, to my family? Why did my mom get to walk away with no physical

injuries and no disability? I did not think that I was going to have the strength, courage and, even hope to move on with life. Due to the

support of family and friends; by them listening to my long night talks and cries I was able to fight off the grievances. Also I am currently seeing

a therapist who does EMDR ( a therapy that works with individuals who have gone through traumatic events in their life) and, wow, it has

help me tremendously. My brother and I had P.T (Physical Therapy) and O.T (Occupational Therapy) everyday for months after spending time

in the hospital that helped us regain the strength in our muscles and other everyday things that other people can do normally, without difficulty.

Being Catholic and having so many people praying and believing that we were going to be ok helped us to heal overtime; but we still continue

to heal to this day. I have gone through two major brain surgeries that have helped cure and significantly reduce the seizures that I have had

since the accident. Even though it was a very long process and recovery I believe that it helped me, overall. I still struggle with the pain and

loss of my dad and brother but, that feeling will NEVER go away.

Determination, Courage, and Strength are the three things that I believe are what help and allow us to move forward and live our lives by

overcoming adversity. They are support of family and friends, hope, faith and, physical strength. Without these, we would not be able to

survive. It is others that help fill our psychological needs by the different kinds of relationships we have with people. There is no complete

answer as to why bad things happen to good people. I often question myself: ‘If everything happens for a reason, why does God kill people,

make others suffer and, take people away from those who love them?’ I still have not found my answer and it bugs me to this day. My mom is

my inspiration because she is the person who has helped me get to where I am today and I know that if she did not push me every day to work

my hardest I would not be in this position, being in college in a field full of so many opportunities. I thank her so much!

I now have a learning disability which has made school more difficult. I require assistance such as having a scribe, tutoring, using a computer,

and need extra time to do assignments and to write exams. Even with these difficulties I still have the determination to go to college and

university in pursuing my goal to become an athletic therapist, along with personal training on the side. I have had two major brain surgeries to

locate and remove the scar tissue that was causing my seizures. This was a very big step for me to overcome but I somehow found the strength

and had the determination to not let seizures overtake my life and stop me from fulfilling my goals. After this time in my life I knew I could do

anything I set my heart and mind to accomplish. I am very much involved in the community. I have volunteered with CABIS (Central Alberta

Brain Injury Society), helped plan an annual memorial charity golf tournament that went on for 10 years, helped out at sports camps for youth,

and raising money for Grad class 09’ fundraising for a Ronald McDonald House to be built here in Red Deer. We successfully raised over 50, 000

dollars for Ronald McDonald House. I also volunteered with the Red Deer Pond Hockey club in coaching Division 1 Timbits and I was a mentor

to the younger players who are new to skating and struggled with stick handling. I also was the student athletic therapy trainer for the Red

Deer College Queens hockey team. Other hobbies that I am interested in are reading interesting books about real life experiences, playing

hockey with friends, having a good girl’s night, attending sporting events, working out and going for ice cream.

Throughout my life things have definitely not gone the way I would have planned them. When something unfortunate happens to a person so

suddenly and so quickly that changes your life forever you realize that life is not always fair. That is something that my dad always told me and

I never really knew why. Now as I have grown up and am moving forward in my life I think I am getting to know why. I know that the pain and

suffering will never go away but that is where I am going to try my hardest to use determination, courage, and acceptance to help me get

through those challenging times and to help other lead quality lives.

Living with epilepsy has not been easy I have learnt how one individual can change the way other individuals in the community view others

living with epilepsy, brain injuries or other disabilities in a positive way. I have learnt this through talking with my instructors, letting them know

of my condition and the accommodation that need to be put in place in order for me to be successful.

Life is definitely NOT fair. When restrictions are placed upon people in a society they face circumstances which can affect their life

tremendously. There are many people who can respond to changes easily, while for others it takes time. It is all in how a person is able to

adapt to different situations. An important life lesson that I have learned is to not take life for granted! It is my belief that if you do what you

are passionate about, give back to the community and live life to the fullest then you can live a successful life. That is what I plan on doing live

a life for what I am passionate about and love doing. To me it doesn’t matter about having money or being rich as long as I am happy and

enjoying what I do. This is truly what really matters.
The medal bearers parade together as they walk into the end of day celebration.

Lead by Dianne, our final medal bearer. She is running for and in place of her husband Marlin, a quadriplegic, who is currently quite ill and could not participate in the relay.

The medal bearers watching a video that is played at every end of day celebration, showing Rick Hansen's achievements, and his vision for the future. I never get tired of this inspirational message.

A good sized crowd of supporters today.
Later, there was a wheelchair basketball demonstration.

After the end of day celebration, Kyle and I headed to the Collicutt Community Centre in Red Deer to use their gym facilities. They were kind enough to give the relay crew free passes.

In the foyer was a rock climbing wall, (not for me!) Then off to our home for two whole nights, the Red Deer Lodge.

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