Today’s post is unique. Sledge Hockey and the Sledge Hockey Experience are my passion but the reasons for this might not be as simple as you think. It isn’t just because I am a Paralympic Athlete or because I have many, many friends in the sport. It has to do with my passion to help foster and create a world where we are all included. Those with disabilities alongside those who are able bodied is just one of the ways we can create inclusiveness. By creating The Sledge Hockey Experience, I am able to teach corporate employees how to work together as a team, how to understand and respect each others’ talents and unique abilities, and to do so in a fun, inclusive way.
That brings me to today’s post. A couple of weeks ago, on May 17th, I came across a sledge hockey post (above) on Instagram by Kat Ellis showing their support for International Day Against Homophobia. It struck a chord with me both because this month, as we celebrate PRIDE, I have a few very close friends in the LGBTQ community and have always enjoyed celebrating our friendship regardless of their gender or orientation. Corporations are always looking for ways to foster inclusiveness and it seemed to me that this post, and PRIDE month, have together created another opportunity for me to share why The Sledge Hockey Experience helps you to achieve a better world (and workplace!) for everyone.
With permission, I am able to share the story of several members of the Canadian Women’s Sledge Hockey Team (CWSHT). They include some incredible people like Jessie Gregory and Claire Buchanan. They are each members of the LGBTQ community and avid sledge hockey players.
Jessie, like myself, sustained a spinal cord injury several years ago, after being involved in a car accident that left her an incomplete paraplegic. She has spent 8 ½ years in a wheelchair with minimal movement but always held out hope of walking again one day. As the picture above shows, with the help of her new “legs” called KEEOGO, she is now able to walk almost 9 years after her original injury. The extent of her recovery is unknown, however she shares that the joy of being able to stand vertically and be at eye level with loved ones is an incredibly rewarding feeling! Jessie is married to her wife Candice and is a goalie on the CWSHT.
Recently, Jessie attended the Sledge Hockey Experience with Walker Aggregates where she demonstrated her incredible strength, positive attitude and ability to work together with, and lead, a team of sledge hockey players, proving that whether on the ice or in the corporate world, whether a member of the LGBTQ community or otherwise, we are all equal in our abilities and talents.
Another female hockey player I am proud to call a friend is Claire Buchanan. Claire plays together with Jessie on the CWSHT and is married to Dott Buchanan. I am particularly inspired by Claire due to her openness and willingness to share her life online through video. I encourage you to visit her YouTube page entitled “How to juggle the struggle.”
It is there that she demonstrates how to be a hero because, to me, she has really “put herself out there” with the pure intent of helping others. I look up to both of these women and aim to do my best to make them proud as I work towards helping the sport of sledge hockey to grow, including both women’s and men’s sledge hockey in the run up to the 2018 Paralympic Games.
While in London Ontario, back in January of 2017, I had the opportunity to actually sit down with Claire and Christina Picton (who is Captain of the CWSHT) to discuss their program and where they currently sit within the sport and to talk about how we can all work together to promote not just the sport, but diversity and inclusiveness as well.
Together, these individuals are helping to bring perspective to what different disabilities might look like AND more importantly, how they don’t limit us from contributing in a meaningful way.
My injury for example is a spinal cord injury (SCI) but I can walk. My lead staff member, Kris Dutkiewicz, has an SCI but lives full time in a wheelchair. He can move his legs, but can’t walk. Jessie has an SCI and has been in a wheelchair ever since her injury, but is now walking with the use of her new legs. These examples all point to our goal of helping others understand that not all disabilities are visible which can make understanding difficult. This same principle applies when understanding different genders and relationships.
What makes The Sledge Hockey Experience and our events so special, and in particular, so unique, is this: Not only are you going to be engaged in an activity which celebrates diversity and inclusion, you will actually also get to spend time with the people themselves who live these lives. These are people who are our fellow human beings in society, people who live with a disability, and perhaps even people who identify as a member of the LGBTQ community.
It is my privilege when someone like Jessie or Claire are able to join us for an “on ice” sledge hockey team building event. It is my hope, through these events, that when you leave our unique program you not only become more open to others in relationships and embrace inclusiveness, but that you also feel inspired to share these stories of remarkable people helping shape the future world we live in.
Sport allows us to come together, build relationships, and share these stories.
When I asked Claire about her feelings towards the sport and subject, she had this to say:
Please support each other as we celebrate Pride month here in Toronto, and welcome everyone whether to the dressing room or the office. Regardless of which colour they choose to tape their hockey stick with, I hope you all someday get an opportunity to play sledge hockey.
If you’d like to learn more about The Sledge Hockey Experience and how your team can benefit from a new and unique team building experience, please check out www.playsledgehockey.com