"Sport opens the door to many great life experiences and our goal is to encourage more Canadians with a disability to get involved and enjoy first-hand the many benefits that participation brings."
To mark the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Canadian Paralympic medallists, coaches and development athletes are telling their powerful, personal stories of sport.
Whether born with a disability or having acquired one later in life, athletes involved in para-sport experience first-hand the many benefits of participating - and share the wish that more Canadians will get involved, whether as an athlete, coach, parent, volunteer or fan.
"Every child in Canada has the right to participate in sport," says Henry Storgaard, CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee. "Sport opens the door to many great life experiences and our goal is to encourage more Canadians with a disability to get involved and enjoy first-hand the many benefits that participation brings."
Currently, less than three per cent of Canadians with a disability are active in organised sports. That's a statistic that the Canadian Paralympic Committee is working to improve, through the recruitment campaign, "It's More Than Sport," produced by BBDO Toronto (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwy-yHUC29ER4Uj_FAxlp0gN9-KuoYKa9).
"For Canada to have a podium full of medallists, we need to have a playground full of kids playing para-sport," says Storgaard. "We need to ensure that kids with a disability know that participation in sport is an option for them. There are many transferable benefits that playing sport can provide a person with a disability, from rehabilitative to personal development. I know parents will see this campaign and want to give their child the chance to benefit from the experience of para-sport."
Sport not only builds great athletes, it builds great people. Friendship, confidence, and opportunity are three of the top benefits both parents and children cite as reasons to get involved in sport.
"I'm so grateful that when I was 13, I saw an athlete on TV with the same disability as mine, which made me realise that one day I could be a Paralympic athlete too," said Benoît Huot, a Paralympic champion swimmer from Montreal who has won 19 medals in four Paralympic Games. "It's really important to make sure the next generation of children with a disability have the same opportunities."
"To be featured in the It's More Than Sport commercial is amazing," said Cassidy Sheng, 12, a leg amputee swimmer from Toronto. "I love swimming and am so proud to show people that swimming is one of the many fun sports that kids with a disability can do."
Visit www.paralympic.ca/get-involved to learn more about ways to get involved, whether as an athlete, coach, parent, volunteer or parasport champion.