Epic week at first-ever MRU Parasports Camp

Youth with physical disabilities get a chance to try a variety of sports and activities

Haley JarmainMount Royal University | Posted: July 27, 2022

Parasports camp participants and counselors posing for a photo in the MRU gymnasium.

Nearly a dozen kids participated in a week-long Parasports Camp in mid-July.

Going to summer camp is an important part of being a kid, but not every child has that opportunity. That’s why Mount Royal University’s Youth Programming (MRU Camps) department created the Parasports Camp.

The idea came from two MRU health and physical education students who identified the need as a result of an innovation project supported by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Parasports Camp’s main objective is to get everyone excited and to participate in activity and sport, regardless of physical ability.

The camp, funded and supported by the Calgary Adapted Hub (CAH) Powered by Jumpstart, provides kids aged from 10 to 15 a chance to try a variety of adapted sports such as wheelchair lacrosse and sitting volleyball.

MRU is one of six partners in the CAH along with the University of Calgary, City of Calgary Recreation, Sport Calgary, Vivo for Healthier Generations, MNP Sport Centre and WinSport.

Nearly a dozen kids participated in the week-long camp in mid-July.

Dr. David Legg, PhD, an MRU health and physical education professor who is also a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame for his extensive advocacy in the world of disability sport, says these opportunities are not always easily available.

“To interact with one another and to be in an environment that I think, for a lot of them, they hadn’t experienced before, is very valuable” Legg says.

While the focus of the camp is sport, it’s also about much more than just learning a new game. It’s about going to summer camp, interacting with peers, socializing and developing independence, and Legg says the experience is also important for camp counsellors.

“It was good for staff at the camp to think about adaptability and inclusivity from the perspective of children experiencing disabilities,” Legg says.

The camp was led by HPED alumna Danielle McLeod, who is MRU Camps’ sports and outdoor education program supervisor. McLeod had help from MRU Camps’ summer staff of post-secondary students from varied backgrounds: Brendan Tendeck, Elise Machado and Adelin Marks.

“Sports offer more than just competition. They also allow kids to learn respect, teamwork and be part of a community,” McLeod says.

She, too, feels that it was not just kids at the camp who benefited from this experience.

“We also had campers attend with cognitive challenges as well. Although this created some obstacles, our counsellors accepted every camper and worked hard to adapt the lessons so everyone could have the best time.”

Thirteen-year-old Wes Brown, who lives with cerebral palsy, is no stranger to athletics. He already plays wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey. However, he says this camp provided him an opportunity to try some sports he had never even thought about.

“Putting different sports into my schedule is better, because I don’t like just doing one sport,” Brown says, who hopes to one day play for Canada’s sledge hockey team and attend the Paralympic Games.

“It’s kind of nice because the other campers know what we’re going through and they just understand.”

MRU Camps at Mount Royal University continue throughout August and spaces are still available.