Greendale/Chilliwack – After seven-year-old Lucas experienced a spinal cord injury in an accident at home, Principal Nicole Driscoll and her staff at Greendale Elementary School in Chilliwack, BC, were to help Lucas make a smooth transition back to school. They wanted students to treat him as they always had, as one of their peers, and include him in their day-to-day activities without it being a big deal.
To help students learn to cope with what happened to Lucas and find ways to include him, Principal Driscoll registered her school in the Rick Hansen Difference Maker Program, which is designed to inspire, empower, and recognize students who make a difference in their community. Not only did students embrace the Program, they got creative.
One day when Lucas’s teacher went to the playground, she found his wheelchair sitting empty. She quickly located Lucas with his friends, playing in a sandbox. Because the playground was not yet wheelchair accessible, his friends had simply picked him up and placed him in there with them so he wouldn’t miss out on the fun. His classmates also insisted on adapting all their other activities and games so Lucas was included.
At the end of the school year, teachers gave Difference Maker awards to students they felt were exceptional in their efforts in creating a more inclusive school. They also invited a Rick Hansen Ambassador to speak to over 150 students to reinforce the message that accessibility and inclusivity are important. The Ambassador shared her personal story of living with a disability, demonstrating in a powerful and engaging way that anyone has the potential to make a positive difference in the world.
“We transformed as a school to ensure a student who was paralyzed was welcomed back with open arms and able to continue being his active self,” says Principal Driscoll. “The program helped us create an inviting environment for him to return and helped our students be more comfortable as well.”
Greendale Elementary is continuing its mission to become more accessible and inclusive.
The Rick Hansen School Program helps increase disability awareness, accessibility, and inclusion, empowering young people to make a difference in their school, community, and world. Because play is essential for children’s physical, social, and emotional well-being, the Rick Hansen Accessible Play Spaces explains why schools and communities should want an accessible playground and offers a how-to guide for schools, parents groups, and students.