By Mark Colley
Nelson Smith discovered sledge hockey by accident.
Smith stumbled into the sport when watching his granddaughter play hockey at the Jim Durrell Recreation Centre just off Bank Street and Walkley Road. He signed up as a 70-year-old rookie and still plays now at age 76.
Smith also manages public relations and marketing for Sledge Hockey of Eastern Ontario. He’s focused on making it easier to find and play the sport and hopes the Ottawa Inclusive and Para Sport Expo, taking place June 3 in the Ravens’ Nest at Carleton University, will help.
“We’re trying to get our vision out,” Smith said. “We want to do [the expo] to improve our access to the city.”
Put together by Abilities Centre Ottawa, the expo will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and showcase 28 local and provincial sport organizations, along with five clinics, vendors and support programs for people with disabilities. It’s an opportunity for people to try new sports and find new communities.
The expo is for anyone interested in trying a new sport and free to attend.
Groups like Boxing Without Barriers, a non-contact program for those with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities, and the Ottawa River Canoe Club will run demonstrations of their sport. Smith and SHEO will bring three sleds on wheels for anyone to try.
Under The Surface Scuba will be at the expo, as well as the Ottawa Para Table Tennis Club and Canadian Adaptive Snowsports.
Wheelchair basketball will also be on display. Attendees can get in chairs provided by the Ottawa Carleton Wheelchair Sports Association and “mess around and get a very introductory feel” for the sport, Sam Graham said.
Graham, a board member for the association, has played wheelchair basketball for 15 years and wants others to get involved in the sport.
“It’s a great opportunity to make friendships, to make community,” Graham said. “For myself, some of my very best friends in life have been through wheelchair basketball.”
He even met the best man at his wedding through the sport. Graham missed last year’s expo — the first iteration of the event — because his bachelor’s party was that weekend.
This year’s expo is different thanks to the addition of clinics and vendors who support people with disabilities, highlights Emily Glossop, who co-chairs the expo alongside Chantal Deketele of Boxing Without Barriers.
“That’s what’s so exciting this year,” indicates Glossop, executive director of Abilities Centre Ottawa. “Everything kind of ties in really nicely with health and wellness and creating awareness.”
The expo is supported by a planning committee of around 15 people, as well as over 40 volunteers to help run the event on the day. It’s sponsored by ParticipACTION, Jumpstart, the Wonderful Giving Fund, NeuroGym Rehab, YabaDaba Therapeutic Recreation, Carleton University, Play On Pediatric Therapy and Cohen & Cohen.
Ultimately, Glossop hopes the expo will help connect more people with a sport they’re passionate about.
“People with disabilities consistently just don’t really have equal access to sport, which is proven to improve current and future fitness levels,” Glossop notes. “The hope is that we spark some interest and find and connect the people with whatever it is that they’re passionate about.”
This article is part of the Ottawa Sports Pages’ weekly Inclusion in Sport series. Read more about local sport inclusion initiatives at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-Sports-Pages-Inclusion-In-Sport-Series/.
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