FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John Energizers wheelchair basketball club has officially launched.

On Thanksgiving Sunday, more than 20 Energetic City residents came to Bert Bowes Middle School to try out the new wheelchairs that will be staying in the community.

Rob Stiles, Programming Director for Northern Adapted Sports Association, says he wasn’t sure how the turnout would look, considering the event was postponed due to changing COVID-19 safety guidelines.

“For it not to be myself sitting in the middle of an empty court was good; to see so many individuals of all ages and abilities was fantastic,” said Stiles. “We also got some messages from those who could not attend, so I think we and the Fort St. John community in general can be excited at the possibilities for the future.”

The launch event coincided with the delivery of a trailer packed with sports wheelchairs, all decked out with space and adapted sports-themed names like Dionysis, Inclusion and Voyager.

“Every piece of adapted equipment we secure gets a spaceship-related name, and I certainly think there were some individuals who had a sci-fi interest who found that amusing. I think that kind of strikes at the core of our views on adapted sports. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that wheelchair basketball is actually great fun for all.”

Those chairs will now rotate through schools in the community and be used for adapted sports units in gym class.

“There is a host of lesson plans and activities that go with the trailer, and we will continue to build on that. Unfortunately, individuals who have mobility challenges are often left out of physical activity, both in school and in the community at large. It’s not due to any malicious intent, but purely because there is a lack of understanding and education. The only way to combat this is through awareness and opportunity on a large scale, so getting visibility in the community is super important.”

Stiles says this would not be possible without the hard work of so many in the community.

“Fort St. John is incredibly lucky in that, through the work of so many hard-working individuals in the past, there is such a fleet of sports chairs available to use.”

Stiles says the next step in the coming weeks and months will be to develop a formal schedule to rotate through all different schools in the area.