Raising money, and awareness for spinal cord injury programming

Mark's 9 played host to a SCISask golf event in August.

A provincial organization that specializes in working for people with spinal cord and other injuries is using golf to raise funds and awareness for their clients.

Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan Inc. (SCISask) recently hosted a golf tournament at Mark’s 9 Golf and Country Club just outside Prince Albert that netted the organization an estimated $15,000 for their programming. During the event on Aug. 24 the SoloRider adaptive golf cart that is housed at Saskatoon’s Silverwood Golf Course was used by Kirk Fontaine. SCISask executive director Launel Scott reached out to Golf Saskatchewan regarding the availability of the cart. The SoloRider was transported to Prince Albert for the event with great success according to Scott.

“Because the tournament was for our organization we wanted to bring awareness to and also have golfers who live with a spinal cord injury or some other physical disability so, it became a quest,” she said. “We knew the SoloRider existed, but it was a quest to find it and how we could access it.”

Fontaine was injured in a car accident three years ago and does have some leg movement but doesn’t have lower body strength to walk 18 holes. He has tried other sports such as archery, skeet shooting, and shot put, and admits golf is fun. Accessing the SoloRider and allowing Fontaine to play in the tournament brought an awareness to the cart and potential future players.

“We could provide the access to one of our clients who said they were interested in golf,” Scott said. “Secondly it created further awareness that getting the SoloRider and this possibility created awareness.”

Although the event was the first for the SCISask, Fontaine used the cart in a fundraising tournament at Harbor Golf and Resort in Elbow. Saskatoon based LA Charities hosted their third event this summer with proceeds going back to the spinal cord injury group. With that tournament and the one at Mark’s 9, Scott said the SoloRider and its use is becoming more known.

“There was a lot of people there who were unfamiliar with even the existence of the SoloRider or that there is an accessible golf cart, so they were able to see that first hand,” she said.

Scott said the awareness for their clients is important but showcasing the SoloRider to courses could open the game to more people in the future.

“One of our outcome hopes is people that own golf courses would be interested in having a SoloRider at their own course,” she said.

13 teams took part in the inaugural event that will now be an annual fundraiser for the organization with four front line staff in Saskatoon and Regina. The group relies on a mentorship program to provide services to clients. It’s difficult to actively reach 1,600 people with four staff, especially in rural markets. Scott hopes the SoloRiders in Saskatchewan (Golf Saskatchewan owns one at the Royal Regina Golf Club) allow for more of their clients to access the sport and enhance their lives on a social level.

“Golf is a pretty social activity, usually you are golfing with a buddy, on a team, or with complete strangers,” she added. “It allows for people to gain or continue access to a social activity.”

The Spinal Cord Injury organization provides their clients with “life journey” programs and assistance. Starting with rehabilitation, basic home life, education assistance, inclusion, and aging with an injury or disability are core components of their work. Finding employment for injured people is a priority of theirs as well. Saskatchewan has a wheelchair sports governing body that promotes excellence for athletes across all genres, Scott said their group uses sports as life enrichment.

“Our business is assisting individuals to regain their self-reliance and their independence and their participation back into the community. The activities that we try to introduce to somebody is for those underlying purposes, not to develop athletes,” she explained.

Coincidently, October is National Disability Employment Month.

For more information on the SoloRiders and their availability in the province contact Golf Saskatchewan at 306-975-0850.