Peer Member, Volunteer & Monthly Donor
“My name is Pat Harris, and I have a long history with SCI BC that started when I was just a boy. Over the years, I went from being visited by peer counsellors, to actually being a peer counsellor and an advocate for people with disabilities.”
When I was 10 years old I was injured in a riverbank cave-in in my rural hometown of Chase, BC. My relationship with SCI BC began about 5 years after my injury. Back then, SCI BC was called the Canadian Paraplegic Association, and my counsellor was a man named Stan Stronge. At 15 years old, I had no idea how this organization would shape my life.
Not only were they committed to helping me and other people with SCI, but once a year Stan would travel around the province in his red convertible. He’d meet up with families—people like myself with SCI, just see how things were going and how he could help.
I recall one time I needed new tires, tubes and bearings for my wheelchair. This was the 60s, and my family required financial assistance. We didn’t have third party funding or insurance, and this made things very difficult financially. Just like today, if you don’t have insurance it can be really problematic to afford equipment. Stan advocated for me. He went to the ministry and got the funding we desperately needed for my chair.
Years later I found the letter of funding from the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction. It makes me laugh now because it’s this grand flourishing letter that says, “we hereby approve the purchase of bearings for Patrick Harris in the amount of $5” signed, the Minister of Social Services.
But it made all the difference in the world to us and Stan made it possible. As our relationship grew, he went on to encourage me to get out and get involved in wheelchair sports. At the age of 18, when I moved to Vancouver, I knew I had a community to back me up, and joined in local wheelchair sports leagues.
In Vancouver my peer counsellors were my contact people, they were my support group. Everyone worked, they were all involved in sports, they all had jobs, they all had relationships. These people were my role models. I can’t even begin to tell you what an impact this had for me. They showed me what I could do with my life. My world opened up.
When I was 25, I moved to Prince George, and volunteered for the Canadian Paraplegic Association/SCI BC. There were no wheelchair sports in PG back then, so a couple of us decided to do something about that, and started a wheelchair sports organization! Then in 1981, I was hired by SCI BC and began my career as a Peer Counsellor. I’m proud of this work—it’s members helping members, peers helping peers. These programs make valuable connections happen, and allow people to live full lives.
So really, in so many ways, this has been a lifelong and indispensable relationship for me—and for those I know and love.
This is what drives me. This is why I’m a monthly donor. I contribute because it’s something I believe in. It gives me a wonderful sense of giving back. It’s a cause that I support because it’s a cause that’s helped me and so many others.