two women in wheelchairs hang out at a curling rink with brooms in their hands, preparing for their next shot.

Marney Smithies

Peer Member, Volunteer & Donor

“It all comes down to one person. Having that one person to support you and say, “Let’s go to this coffee group” or to encourage you to get out. Nobody really gets it unless they’ve been there.”

For me, that one person was my friend Kim. When I first met Kim, she didn’t know anyone else with SCI and she didn’t have a lot of contact with other people. I was also very shy, so we helped each other, and we went to our first coffee group together. Before Kim, I never really realized how much a one-hour coffee group could change my life. Over the years, I’ve seen how it’s changed the lives of so many other people as well.

When I was injured back in 1985, I was going through a really dark time in my life. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t have an appreciation for my friends and family. I moved from Alberta to BC in 1993 and became really involved in wheelchair sports. Eventually, through that involvement in my community, I managed to overcome those dark days and felt a renewed set of joy. I was always busy with athletics or working and it wasn’t until after retirement that I became more involved in the SCI BC community and started my friendship with Kim.

We were both members of the accessible gym at the Physical Activity Research Centre (PARC) at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre in Vancouver. But we live in Surrey and Delta, so the distance made it hard to stay active. We asked around our local coffee group to see if anyone else was having an issue with transportation, and from those conversations, and with support from SCI BC, we started the South Fraser Active Living Group.

Over time, it’s sort of evolved from a local recreation group to also be a volunteer and community advocacy group. We’ve all been there and it’s good to know you’re not the only one. I think there are solutions in this shared experience — “Have you tried this?” “Have you tried that?” There are so many things I wouldn’t have done without Kim and SCI BC.

SCI BC is such a unique organization. There are so many good programs and activities that everyone benefits from, like the annual Whistler trip where you can go mountain biking and kayaking and all this other stuff. Without SCI BC, that trip would cost $400 and most people don’t have that. I know that if I donate even $10 it makes a difference. These small donations add up. I’ve experienced the good that comes from them first-hand.

Whether it’s going once a month to a coffee group or joining an exercise group or making friendships and getting out more. Even just talking on the phone. We’re all social beings and we need that. SCI BC is very flexible, and they try to connect as many people as they can. I know what they do benefits a lot of people and I know it benefits me hugely as well.

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