Shriners Hospital partners with Spartan Race – Spartan Race Canada has selected the Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada as their national charity partner for 2018. Spartan Race Canada is the leader in obstacle course races, among the most challenging in the world. Over the years patients at Shriners Hospitals across Canada have participated in Spartan Races proving that disabilities do not necessarily mean limitations. The Shriners Hospitals treat children with orthopedic and neuromuscular problems such as brittle bone disease, hip dysplasia, cerebral palsy, scoliosis, limb deformities, and other complex conditions.
Patients of the Shriners Hospital in NDG will be participating in a series of Spartan Races in the Greater Montreal Region and beyond from May until August. The races have a two-fold purpose: to help raise money for sick children being treated by the Shriners Hospitals and to encourage participants to develop their full potential. According to Martin Galligan, President of Spartan Race Canada when children and their families get involved in obstacle course racing they are better able to face obstacles in life. This particularly challenging sport helps them to learn how to deal with obstacles by fostering autonomy, encouraging them to trust in their own ability to find a solution. “This is very similar to what runners encounter when training for a Spartan Race and during a race,” he says.
The three young “patient ambassadors” representing the McGill University-affiliated Shriners Hospital on the Glen site are Jeffrey Beausoleil, Aurélie Grandchamp, and Florence Carrier. Jeffrey, 19, has been a patient at the Shriners since he was 5 months old. He was born missing his right hand and right foot. At an early age had to learn to overcome obstacles.”Ever since I was little, I’ve known I can overcome obstacles despite being differently-abled,” he says. One of the most difficult challenges involved intimidation. In elementary school, the children laughed at him and called him an alien dubbing him Captain Hook” because at the time he was wearing a hooked-shaped prosthetic on his arm. However, with the help of his parents, teachers, his doctors & Shiners staff, along with the support of some “faithful friends”, he learned how to cope and stand up to school bullies. In 2016 he proved his tormentors wrong when he competed in not one but four Spartan Races with a prosthetic on his right leg and no right arm.
“This is my 10th (race). I’ve raised more than $10,000,” he says with evident pride. And why not? Jeffrey is a veteran competitor, having successfully completed 9 obstacle course races. While he doesn’t want to set his expectations too high he is nevertheless cautiously optimistic that he can expand his circle of potential donors. “I’m going to challenge people to give donations to the Shriners,” he says noting that he already has a “little fan base” of about 1000 people and hopes to reach as many as 5000 through social media. In the meantime, he is gearing up for the endurance race with huge obstacles. “It was hard the last time,” he says. During his first race at Mont-Tremblant, Jeffrey admits he considered quitting. “But I remembered why I was doing it: to prove to myself, my family and everyone who’s ever doubted me that I can do anything I want to – I just do it differently.”
Aurélie Grandchamp, 16, underwent major surgery to correct a bone deficiency in her left leg when she was 11. The surgery lengthened her left femur by 5.5 centimeters and after a lengthy period of rehabilitation, she resumed playing sports. She is still seeing specialists at the Shriners and doing physiotherapy but is now active in soccer tournaments, running events, and other sports-related challenges. She has won regional competitions in cross-country running and was awarded “Player of the Year” two years in a row in her soccer and flag football teams at Collège Notre-Dame. The petite teenager acknowledges that Spartan Races represent a significant challenge. “I want to train, to achieve these goals, without getting hurt, “she says with total candor. Despite the hurdles, both literally and figuratively speaking, it’s been worth it. Talking about her first challenge heat she says, “It was just amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t like it.”
The other challenge, of course, was raising the money. In 2013, with the help of her grandmother and family, Aurélie raised more than $11,000. Since then she has taken part in numerous hospital events such as the Shrine Bowl in 2014 and the Spartan Race in 2016 which allowed her to raise another $3000. Aurélie says she wants to get involved and give back after receiving the best possible care. Her concept is simple. “The idea is to have a team of 10 – friends or family – and for each of them to raise at least $200.” Sounds like a plan. Aurélie’s got bigger plans. She would love to work with the hospital in the future. She says her disability, coupled with her positive experience at the Shriners, has made her appreciate the medical field.
Florence Carrier, 10 is the youngest competitor. She was born with a malformation to her right leg and a few days after birth her parents were referred to the Children’s Hospital for a consultation. With the support of the Shriners team, her parents made the decision for their baby daughter to have surgery to amputate her right leg. Her right foot was also removed. A few months later she took her first steps with the help of prosthesis and she’s never looked back. The energetic 5th grader is active in numerous activities including dancing, gymnastics, swimming, and has even completed triathlons. The list goes on. She does alpine skiing which she began at only 3 years old. Her dream is to go to the Olympics in skiing and represent her country. She’s also been a member of the Owl’s Head racing team for 2 years now. “I’ve watched it a lot on TV. I’ve always wanted to do an obstacle course,” she says. “I think it’s a lot of fun.” She wants to raise at least $200 or more this summer. She hasn’t started her fundraising campaign yet. “I haven’t really told anyone because it is really new,” she says.
“It’s a pretty safe bet that this youngest champion of the group will achieve whatever goals she sets. Florence has great role models in Jeffrey and Aurélie who have proven themselves. She will be in the company of an elite group of Spartan Racers who will be challenging themselves to achieve their personal best for the best of all possible motives, to help others who are less fortunate. There’s a lesson for all of us.
Feature image: Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada patient ambassadors and Spartan runners Jeffrey Beausoleil, Florence Carrier and Aurélie Grandchamps take on an indoors version of the barbed wire obstacle in the Spartan Races.
By: Deborah Rankin – email@example.com