| || ||
Parks and Recreation hosted the Youth Spirit Challenge awards today at the new
Wellesley Community Centre. This was the first event held at the Wellesley
Community Centre since it was officially opened yesterday and the first awards
ceremony for the Youth Spirit Challenge (YSC).
YSC is a program that introduces youth with disabilities to the sport of Dragon
Boat racing and promotes physical activity, team spirit and competition for
youth with a physical, developmental or intellectual disability. What separates
YSC from other sports programs for youth with disabilities is that it is
inclusive. No one has ever been turned away because of age or ability and it
brings families, support staff, paddlers and youth with disabilities together.
Barney Bailie, father to one of the participants and a program volunteer said
this about the program: "My life is extremely challenging especially as one of
my children is wheelchair bound and requires daily support. Youth Spirit
Challenge provides me with an outlet and an opportunity for both my children to
participate in competition together. Not only do I look forward to this program
each year, but it also helps me cope, knowing that I have this fantastic
program to look forward to. My youngest son actually gets to play a sport with
his older brother who is disabled. It is truly an amazing family event."
YSC started as a pilot program seven years when the Toronto International
Dragon Boat Festival had a vision to create a race for youth with disabilities.
The vision became a reality when the Greater Toronto Dragon Boat approached
Susan Lewis, a Parks and Recreation employee and a national paddler. Susan
helped Toronto Dragon Boat connect to a number of agencies including: Christian
Horizons, Meta Centre for the Developmentally Disabled Services, Vita Community
Living Services and New Horizons all of whom are still partners today.
In its first season (1999) YSC had three boats, 45 youth with disabilities and
15 volunteers. Last season YSC had six boats, 120 paddlers and over 60
volunteers participating in the program.
About 100 of the paddlers, youth with disabilities, volunteers and agency staff
attended the awards ceremony to recognize the volunteers and agencies that make
the program so successful.
Agency awards went to the Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival, the
Greater Toronto Dragon Boat and New Horizons.
Volunteer awards went to; Barney Bailie, Joe Dizon, Redford Fong, John Lemon,
Susan Lewis, Wendy Mouliason and Jeankei Yeung.
Media contact: Economic Development, Culture and Tourism Hotline, 416-560-8726