Rachel Allenbrand

Spinal Cord Injury BC Volunteer & Peer Family Member

Interviewed at Fintry Provincial Park in the Okanagan on June 22, 2013

My name is Rachel Allenbrand, I am the daughter of Paul Gifford, he is a C3-C4 high-level quad of 34 years.

What’s your favourite thing about Spinal Cord Injury BC?

I think my favourite part about SCI BC events is seeing the look on people’s faces when they actually get out and there able to do stuff that they normally would not be able to do.

I had the opportunity to drive one guy down to an event, and he had never been to that part of BC before, and he was just vibrating and beaming, he was just absolutely radiant with excitement, because he was able to get out. The fact that he had that person to drive him around because I had access to a wheelchair accessible vehicle was awesome and just getting to socialize and hang out.

And I’m just so comfortable with these people, the chair is no big deal, and he was just so comfortable and relaxed and we had a great time. It was just really energetic just knowing that we had fun that day and done something that someone hadn’t done in a very long time. It was very exciting.

You’ve only heard of us since April and you’ve already become a really intense really involved volunteer with our organization, what has driven you to do that?

What has caused me to be more involved in this group is that I’ve been around a person in a chair my whole life, I’ve seen the fact that they can get stuck in the house or stuck in a rut or just stuck not doing anything. And just going for coffee with a bunch of guys and seeing that they’re getting out and doing stuff, that’s exciting.

The fact that I’m an able bodied person who knows that world so well, and I can help these people, it’s just so fulfilling. It’s very very fulfilling and it’s exciting. And I love events and coordinating, it’s right up my alley, so I’ve just had a blast getting involved in helping people just have fun. It’s just awesome.

If you’re meeting someone who’s never heard of us before, what would you tell them?

I would definitely encourage other people and other families to get involved with Spinal Cord Injury BC because it’s an open door to so much more. And a lot of times, you don’t know that there are other things out there and you’re stuck in your own family situation or whatever it is.

And you know there are other people like you out there, you just don’t know how to connect and once you get out, you meet family.

I meet people who are like me who’ve been with it their whole life, or they’re new to the situation, and then there’s people with spinal cord injuries who meet people with other disabilities, and it’s just overall, a positive effect to connect and relate and to be able to talk about stuff that you can’t talk about with just anybody else.

It’s just like an extended family. Instead of just having your core group of family, you’re just widening your net, and it’s so worth getting involved because it’s emotionally fulfilling and therefore positive, and definitely beneficial.

Today your dad went hiking. Tell me about that.

My father doesn’t get out of his comfort zone ever, and his comfort zone for the last 34 years has been his chair, his computer, and the random stint he did have to go hunting.

And he’s always talked about going fishing, going hunting and boating, and as a little girl, I always wanted to do those things with him, but we never had the ability to do, so now the fact that he had this opportunity to go hiking, I was just like ,he ain’t gonna go, he’s just a stubborn old man and somehow, this beautiful organization sweet talked him to going, and I can’t believe he did it, it was amazing.

It was such a milestone, it was such a huge leap of faith on his part. To put his body in the hands of other people and they just took care of him. They hiked him right up to the waterfall, and  he said it was the first time in 34 years that he’s seen waterfall up close, so yeah that’s just pretty cool .

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