The Para-Sport Tour Dream Relay rolled out of Prince Albert today, June 8 for the first leg of its 363-kilometer journey to Regina.
Paralympian Colette Bourgonje was present at the Albert Jenkins Field House on Wednesday to offer a few words of wisdom and motivation to three athletes who will be making the first 52-kilometer leg of the relay.
For Cherish Nontell, a student at Queen Mary’s Elementary School, Bourgonje’s Paralympic accomplishments are an inspiration which has led her to pursue her dream of becoming a Paralympic Nordic-skier.
“I wanted to get involved because I like to exercise and I like adventures,” Nontell said. “I want to be a skier, just like her.”
Bourgonje, a resident of Saskatchewan, has participated in 10 Paralympic events as both a summer and winter athlete. At the age of 18 Bourgonje was involved in a motor vehicle accident and she lost the use of her legs as a result. Never one to be let down, within a year Bourgonje earned her degree in Physical Education and started teaching the following fall. Staying active has always been a big part of Bourgonje life, and being in a wheelchair never stopped her from achieving her goals.
“I love the freedom, and the ability to run anywhere. Wherever running took me I was going to take it as far as I could,” Bourgonje said during an interview for the Milestones of Champions miniseries. “Cross country running and cross country skiing have given me that same sense of freedom.”
From Barcelona in 1992 to Sochi in 2014, Bourgonje earned nine Paralympic medals. Today, she expressed nothing but gratitude to those who have supported her to make the Para-Sport Tour Dream Relay a possibility.
“I want to thank all of our sponsors, and especially the volunteers here supporting us. Without them, this relay wouldn’t be possible,” Bourgonje said.
Participants will be using a dreamcatcher as a baton in the relay in place of a traditional baton. Each participant in the relay will also receive a keepsake dreamcatcher to remember their role in the relay.
The goal of the Para-Sport Tour Dream Relay is to raise awareness province-wide about the opportunities available to para-sport athletes, and how to get involved with para-sporting activities. The group also hopes to raise awareness around building healthy, active lifestyles to those persons with disabilities.
Bourgonje herself was pointed towards the Paralympics by another athlete at the time, and she has extended that same opportunity to other people with disabilities. Most recently she worked with Prince Albert native Brittany Hudak, a Paralympic skier who was born missing a portion of her left arm. Hudak participated in her first Paralympic games at Sochi in 2014, competing in four different stand up ski events.
The Para-Sport Dream Relay will stretch over 10 days, stopping in Duck Lake, Rosthern, Warman, Saskatoon, Hanley, Davidson, Craik, Chamberlain, Lumsden, and end in Regina. The first portion of the relay will be one of the longest, spanning from the Alfred Jenkins Field House, into Duck Lake. The tour is expected to reach Regina on June 18.
On Twitter, @BryanEneas
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