Stu Wymer used his disability to dispel stigma.

It’s been seven years since the 37-year-old Kamloopsian was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. He was hurt in a car accident in Terrace, and now he teaches wheelchair sports for Pacific Sport’s XploreSportZ program in Kamloops.

On Friday, Wymer was in Merritt to teach a group of youth, ages six to 12, participating in an XploreSportZ camp, the fundamentals of wheelchair skills.

“It’s trying to break the barrier down, to show them that wheelchairs aren’t a bad thing or a good thing. You can have fun either way,” Wymer said.

Merritt’s camp was his ninth this year, he said.

Wymer plays multiple sports, including wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, curling and tennis.
“Pretty much every sport under the sun,” Wymer said.

In the accident that paralyzed him, the car Wymer was riding in hydroplaned in heavy rain and rolled over.

“It is what it is. I’m six feet above not six feet below, make the best of it,” he said.

He told the Herald he wanted to break down the notion of pity surrounding people in wheelchairs.

“This opportunity came up through Pacific Sport to come out and work with kids, and whoever, like seniors, just to break the barrier and let them know that you’re not handicapped, you’re handi-able,” he said.

“You make it whatever you want to make of it,” Wymer said.

At the Merritt camp, the group of youth got to learn how to operate wheelchairs through relays — weaving through cones and maneuvering around hoops on the floor. They also got to play a few wheelchair sports too, such as soccer and basketball.

Avery Warren, 10, said it was difficult to maneuver the wheelchair at first, but she eventually got used to it. She said the best part of handling a wheelchair was being able to maneuver in ways on can’t without a wheelchair.

“Like spinning around, [and] going fast,” she said.

Friday’s camp was the first time nine-year-old Billy Blanchard had operated a wheelchair. He said the hardest part of wheelchair sports for him was getting around people.

“Everybody was bumping, and shoving and all that,” he said.

The XploreSportZ camp is held on Pro-D days where students enjoy a day learning various sports.

Friday’s camp was the first to feature wheelchair sports in Merritt, Pacific Sport co-ordinator Josee Warren told the Herald. In all, 13 youth attended the camp, which also featured curling and water polo.

Warren said the purpose of XploresportZ is to introduce children to non-traditional sports.

“When I heard that Stu is working with XploreSportZ in Kamloops, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to bring him to Merritt,” Warren said.