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Wheelchairs hit the water for day of inclusive paddling in Vernon

The Vernon Adaptive Program’s second inclusive paddling event was a day of firsts for many in attendance
Jordan Kerton, manager of the Vernon Adaptive Program, helps Brodie Shaw try paddleboarding for the first time during an inclusive paddling event at Paddlewheel Park in Vernon Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

For people in the Okanagan, having fun on the water is a right, not a privilege.

That’s why the Vernon Adaptive program brought back an event that gives people with disabilities the chance to learn how to paddle on Okanagan Lake.

At least 60 people came out to a free barbecue at Paddlewheel Park Friday, Sept. 15, where members of Vernon Adaptive used their specialized equipment to get people on the water, no matter the barriers they face.

Brodie Shaw’s smile couldn’t be contained as he took his first paddleboard ride in his wheelchair on a paddleboard fitted with four outriggers for balance.

Vernon Adaptive manager and recreation therapist Jordan Kerton stood with Shaw on the board and paddled him around the bay.

“We live in the most beautiful place on earth I think,” Kerton said. “We’re surrounded by all these lakes and this is a part of our culture, paddling, as a community at large. We want to make sure that everybody has the chance to get out there and they’re not left sitting on the sidelines watching.”

As a recreation therapist, Kerton takes leisure and recreation activities and modifies them for anyone’s needs, using these activities as therapeutic tools that allow people to build new skills, create friendships and, in this case, take part in an Okanagan rite of passage.

Inclusive paddling isn’t just a one-time-only event; Vernon Adaptive regularly gets people out on the water, often partnering with Venture Training, and feedback from the community indicates the program is having success teaching people how to paddle all while building self-confidence.

“There’s a crew from Venture Training that has come out for the last two summers, once a week,” said Kerton. “In the beginning everyone was sitting on a paddleboard. (Now) folks are standing, folks are independently paddling themselves.

The event was sponsored by IG Wealth Management and Spinal Cord Injury BC, who Kerton thanked for providing the free barbecue for those in attendance and for supporting the program throughout the season.

“We’re really here celebrating the expansion of our program,” Kerton said, explaining Vernon Adaptive recently received a $10,000 grant from the Kalamalka Rotary Club to help purchase more equipment. The team also just installed a brand new shipping container that was donated by a member of the community which will be used to store equipment.

“We’re thrilled that the Vernon Paddling Centre has been so supportive of this initiative and they’ve taken our program under their wings and given us a home base here,” said Kerton.

Anyone can learn to paddle with Vernon Adaptive; email to learn more or book a paddle.

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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