P.E.I.’s best curlers “rock and roll” at wheelchair curling tournament

Mitch MacDonald
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With a couple minor adjustments, just about any sport can be accessible to everyone.

Some of Prince Edward Island’s best curlers and community leaders teamed up to prove that while also raising funds for Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I. at the Crapaud Curling Club Saturday.

The day saw 16 teams face off in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” wheelchair curling funspiel.

“People with disabilities played too but every person on their team would have to curl from a wheelchair (for at least three ends) as well, so it was a lot of fun,” said Paul Cudmore, executive director of SPI P.E.I.

Arms and accuracy are crucial to wheelchair curling, which can be a challenge for even the best curlers at first, he said.

“It may look easy but I tease Kathy O’Rourke all the time… She’s one of the best curlers in our province, in the world, but even she had a hard time doing it when she first tried. It’s not easy to do,” he said. “Once she got onto it, how to hold the stick and curl the rock, she’s really good now.”

O’Rourke, a six-time provincial Scotties champion, was one of the tournament’s organizers along with Kellys Cross-Cumberland MLA Valerie Docherty.

O’Rourke said the idea came from participating in last year’s Chair-Leaders event, which saw well-known Islanders and politicians use a wheelchair for the day.

“That it was a real eye-opening experience for me, “ said O’Rourke. “I said ‘well if I’m going to participate in that, I should really switch and do the curling since that’s kind of what I do’… We can help grow the sport through wheelchair curling so that’s a great thing too.”

It was Cornwall resident Dawn Mitchell’s first time trying the sport.

She said she may do it again someday.

“You kind of have to move over to one side, it’s not easy… but it’s a great cause and Paul (Cudmore) does a great job,” said Mitchell, who has used a wheelchair for the past 10 years. “Everyone should, if they’re capable, give this a chance.”

Brian Cameron, whose daughter Kristen suffered a spinal injury after being hit by an impaired driver in Pennsylvania in 2010, thanked the event’s participants.

He said many do not realize how much work the SCI P.E.I. does to help integrate those with spinal injuries into the community.

“It’s important what this organization does to give people an opportunity to do things that otherwise they can’t do,” said Cameron. “It’s hard to express enough appreciation for some things that happen, particularly in a small community like this where people come together… it’s incredible.

Believe me, you make a difference.”

A reception after the tournament saw local comedian Eric Payne perform a set, while CBC Compass anchor Bruce Rainnie spoke about his experience covering curling during last month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Rainnie also handed out awards to the winning team, which was sponsored by the South Shore Pharmacy. That included six-time P.E.I. Tankard champion Mark Butler as well as Phyllis Stretch, Della Ferguson and Carol Vincent.

Cudmore said he wanted to thank participants, sponsors and added that the event will be held again.

“It’s only going to grow, people had a great time today.”

Organizations: Crapaud Curling Club, SCI P.E.I.

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Pennsylvania, Sochi Russia

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  • Good Cause
    March 10, 2014 - 06:21

    A great cause! I see the host club is also doing a fund raiser to help keep the doors open! http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/crapaud-curling-club-fundraiser