Wacky Wheelays brings fun in the sun to everyone

Northshore Baptist Church held its eighth annual Wacky Wheelays event July 20, bringing together participants of varying abilities for a field day at Bothell High.

  • Monday, July 21, 2008 6:33pm
  • News

Top: Liz Stiger

Northshore Baptist Church held its eighth annual Wacky Wheelays event July 20, bringing together participants of varying abilities for a field day at Bothell High.

Think Special Olympics, only more inclusive.

The event featured a variety of people and their chosen vehicles, which included bikes, trikes, wagons and wheelchairs.

Bothell resident Kevin Bridgeford rode a tandem bike with his 16-year-old son Alan, who lost his eyesight at the age of 6 due to a tumor on his optic nerve.

Alan will be singing the National Anthem at the Everett Aquasox game Aug. 3.

Suzy Buder has cerebral palsy. She participated in the field day in a wheelchair with help from friends Vivian Shurs and Jasmine Green.

“Suzy likes to participate with quote-unquote normal people,” Shurs said. “This gives her a level playing field.”

A potluck dinner followed the field-day events, which included an obstacle course, relays, a fishing derby and javelin throwing.

Marysville residents Troy and Cheryl Howard were taking notes at Wacky Wheelays on behalf of Northshore Christian Church, which is considering starting a similar event.

“It’s all about being in a group and having fun,” Troy said. “Everybody wins.”

The Howards’ son, J.J., is a regular participant in the Special Olympics. His parents said they’re trying to keep him involved in recreational activities so he doesn’t get caught up in some of the more sedentary interests he’s developed, like playing video games and Pokemon.

“We ride all over Marysville, the Centennial Trail — wherever we can find a sidewalk,” Troy said.

Northshore Baptist has made a point of adding Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant features to its facilities in recent years. But providing wheelchair ramps isn’t enough, according to Pastor Bob Rorabaugh, who helped establish the Wacky Wheelays event.

“Accommodation is not the same thing as inclusion,” he said. “If we can normalize disabilities, we won’t marginalize people who are hurting.”

Rorabaugh decided nine years ago to test that theory. He started an event called Hike on Wheels that would integrate people of all abilities for a ride along Seattle’s Myrtle Edwards Park.

Things didn’t work out as he had planned.

“We noticed that fathers and teens on bikes would take off and ride to Kenmore,” Rorabaugh said. “That wasn’t very inclusive, so we decided to start a different event and put a fence around it.”

The new model has been a success. This year’s event brought a crowd of around 250 people into the confines of Bothell High’s track and soccer facility.

More than 40 volunteers attended the function.

“We’re wealthy in servant-hearted people,” Rorabaugh said. “Volunteers drive so much.”

Several nonprofit groups were also on hand during the event, including Bridge Disability Ministries, which offers guardianship services and refurbished wheelchairs to people who can’t afford them.

Representatives from the Free Wheelchair Mission were in attendance to explain their mission of providing the gift of mobility to disabled people living in the developing world.

The group’s founder, Don Schoendorfer, has invented a type of wheelchair that consists of a plastic lawn chair, metal tubing and bike tires. The cost for manufacturing, shipping and distributing the devices is under $50 apiece.

Teacher Scott Jones worked with the Renton School District this year to raise $26,000 for the mission. His efforts made possible a shipment of 550 wheelchairs.

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe was among the guests who spoke during the Wacky Wheelays opening ceremony.

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