In Peer Profiles

GerryBurnsSurfingHe’s a retired motocross racer, a passionate world traveler, competitive sailor, surfer, and one of the toughest athletes you’ll ever meet. He’s also a quadriplegic, with an “incomplete” C1/C2 spinal cord injury.

When he broke his neck playing hockey in 2003, the prognosis was grim. Through rehab he exceeded all expectations along the way, but doctors told him he’d still rely on a power chair his whole life, and be able to take just a few steps with a walker.

Being a determined free spirit, Burns wouldn’t have any of it. Through a lot of perseverance, those few steps have added up over the years to a few thousand kilometers.

But all his big adventures started back home. He was still in rehab when he set his first major goal for recovery: he would climb the Grouse Grind. “I was told I’d never climb stairs again and I just never wanted to accept that. It fueled me to not just climb a few stairs but to one day attempt the toughest set of stairs I know… The Grouse Grind,” says Gerry.

With the support of his friends, family and peers at Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI BC), Gerry set about training for the “impossible”.

It took him five years to reach his ultimate goal, but in 2008, Gerry became one of the first quadriplegics to ever hike up the Grouse Grind, raising money for spinal cord research as well, It took him and a supportive team of friends 8.5 hours to conquer.

Last year, when SCI BC asked Gerry, a long time peer and volunteer, to take part in the The Scotiabank Charity Challenge, he was game.

“I’ve got different goals I try to accomplish throughout each year and the 5 km walk was a huge challenge and a new personal record to set,” says Gerry. On a daily basis, Gerry uses his walker as much as he can in pursuit of recovery, but he uses a power chair too to get around more practically.

In the end, the 5 km Charity Challenge took Gerry 5 hours and 36 minutes to complete, but he pulled through to the very end. “By the time we got to the finish line, there was no finish line, not one runner even around. In fact the tents and fencing had been all packed up,” he laughs. “But it was all about raising awareness for this great cause and accomplishing a new personal best. I’m so stoked and I’m really proud to have raised over $1,600 for SCI BC.”

Sadly, Gerry took a hard fall just before last Christmas and broke his back this time! Fortunately, his spinal cord wasn’t injured this time (it was an L1 fracture). Although his spasticity has increased for now, he is slowly trying to get back to the level of mobility he had last autumn.

Despite all that, he’s already hopeful for this year’s Scotiabank Charity Challenge. “It’s a huge goal to push for again and definitely a challenge to work up to but I really wanna go for it.”

One thing that keeps him motivated is knowing that he’ll be raising funds for Spinal Cord Injury BC, a non-profit organization that he strongly supports.

“SCI BC is a great cause. I think they are an essential resource and network that’s there to help make lives easier for people with spinal cord injuries. For people directly out of rehab, SCI BC can really help transition into a new lifestyle, and the peer events and classes are only a portion of what they offer. It’s cool that they can help tie a SCI community together in a way, and I think that pumps up a lot of peeps knowing what everyone is charging on to do in life.”

We’ll be walking and rolling our way through the five kilometer course again this year, hoping to meet our new fundraising goal of $20,000.

Join Gerry and support our team, The Walk ‘n Rollers!

Sponsor Gerry Burns on his 5K:

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