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"We also spoke about nutrition and how that is important to any athlete. In the end I hope to educate them enough so that they can train independently from my sessions."
"The Gang" is now doing one session a week with Kennedy and one on their own time. This is part of the academy's goal; to help these individuals become self-dependent, giving them confidence and pride in their abilities. "Programs and achievements like this mean that young adults who were previously unemployed are now getting jobs with their disabilities," says Bianca Matheson, who is on the Board of Directors for WASP and owner of Back In Action Physiotherapy.
"After completing the triathlon training and the continuing with the Sports Academy Program, Sarah is now getting around more independently, which has increased her quality of life."
Small goals are now being supplanted by larger and more challenging aspirations. The triathlon came first, then the 5 Peaks Run, Xterra, and Whistler Spirit Run. Looking ahead to next year Sarah and "The Gang" are gearing up for (among other things) the Scotia Bank Half Marathon, which is a fundraiser for the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program. This is exactly what Walker had hoped for; that short-term goals would be exchanged for long-term ones with lasting effects.
Sarah is learning skills that are helping her become more independent, which translates well into a work setting. She started working at Delish Café in Function Junction in November 2010, and anyone who speaks to her is struck by her sense of humor. "Sarah's going great and she's having fun," says Sandra Cameron, controller for Delish and the Whistler Grocery Store. "She comes in and has set duties with the bakers twice a week. We enjoy having her as part of the team, she brings a smile to everyone's face."
Walker is fostering a set of athletes that are encouraged to give back. They earn their sports time in exchange for work hours, but they also volunteer extra time. She believes that funding is not a one-way street; it's an investment. Sarah is an avid artist with some of her work displayed around the village as part of ArtWalk. She donates a portion of the profits from her art to WASP and other community groups. There is an understanding that if she is one day to be a "famous cartoonist" this will only happen if there's a support network and structure to get her there.