• Martin Zeilig

Soldier On Sports Camp

For Captain (ret) Colleen Kelly-Wardle, adaptive sports has opened up, in her words, “a whole new world” of activity.


Wheelchair Basketball. Photo credit Dan Whittaker, Soldier On

The 28 year member of the Canadian Armed Forces, who retired on April 4, 2022, was one of ten participants in a three day, August 16-18, adaptive sports camp, sponsored by Soldier On and PSP, in Building 21—the old 17 Wing gymnasium.


Dan Whittaker, the regional coordinator for MB/SK/NW Ontario for Soldier On, organized the camp.


The camp was designed to afford Soldier On members from CFB Winnipeg an opportunity to come out and try adaptive sports and get a feel of what it’s like, Mr. Whittaker said during an interview on August 16 in Building 21.


The adaptive sports being tried out were wheelchair basketball, wheelchair volleyball, wheelchair rugby, para-archery at the outdoor archery range off Whytewold Road, and also disc golf at the disc golf course behind Building 90.


Instructors from the respective adaptive sports were present to demonstrate proper techniques in their respective sport.


“We want them to see how much fun they will have in the different types of adaptable sports,” Mr. Whittaker said.


Soldier On is a program of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) which contributes to the recovery of ill and injured CAF members and veterans by providing opportunities and resources through sport, recreational, and creative activities, says the Soldier On website.

Soldier On is recognized for improving the quality of life of the ill and injured and is a highly visible and integral component of the Department of National Defence, and the CAF’s commitment to the care of ill and injured members. Generous Canadians support the program through donations and fundraising to the Soldier On Fund, which is managed by Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services.


Since 2007, Soldier On has supported over 10,000 ill and injured members using sport and physical recreational activities to enable social support, build confidence in their abilities and realize their full potential.


Capt (ret) Kelly-Wardle noted that she had participated in seated volleyball, swimming and rowing at the 2022 Invictus Games in The Hague.


“Adaptive sports has given me back the ability to be an active person,” she said.


“I want to learn more sports and make some contacts to get more involved in sports in the local community.


“I have a number of disabilities that caused me to be medically released from the military. I used to do long distance triathlons. Adaptive sports helps keep me active. Now I can have fun and have a workout without hurting myself.


“I also want to make sure that serving members know about Soldier On and what’s available.”


Chris Bird, from Brandon, Manitoba, and a member of the Canadian Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team for a decade now, was instructing at the session on August 16.


“I’m a right leg amputee as a result of a motor vehicle accident at age sixteen,” he said, noting that he works as an accountant.


“I had some trouble adapting to life as an amputee because I valued being an athlete for so long. It was about a decade before I was introduced to adaptive sports. What keeps me going is the hope of introducing more injured people into adaptive sports.”


Joey Johnson, the program coordinator with the Manitoba Wheelchair Sports Association and the assistant coach for Canadian Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, was also in attendance that day.


“As a former athlete, I’ve competed at five Paralympic Games. I’ve coached two Paralympic Games and at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.


“I’ve tried every adaptive sport,” said Mr. Johnson, noting that he played 19 years with the Canadian Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team and won three gold medals and a silver medal over that time span.


Participants of the Adaptive Sports Day at 17 Wing. Photo credit Dan Whittaker, Soldier On

“Growing up, I played a lot of sports. I love opportunities like this and being able to share wheelchair basketball with others is great. If this could lead somebody down a path to play wheelchair basketball then even better.”


Mr. Whittaker, a former 33 year member of the CAF, also pointed out that the camp was free for participants.


“We also have a Soldier On grant program to help members purchase equipment,” he said.


“For me, it’s not about the job, but having the opportunity of watching a person grow through participation in sport and our other activities.”


For further information visit the Solider On website: www.soldieron.ca

Email: dan.whittaker@forces.gc.ca

Office telephone: (204) 833-2500 ext. 4918

Cell: (204) 583-1163

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