In News & Blog, Peer Profiles, SCI BC Event, SCI BC News

“I want to share my story and help other people because I want other people’s possibilities to be bigger too.”

An athlete by nature, our Scotiabank Charity Challenge (SCC) Team Captain Paulo Guerrero trains relentlessly and doesn’t shy away from any challenge. Since his SCI almost two years ago, he’s enthusiastically immersed himself into pretty much every adaptive sport that’s come his way: adaptive rock climbing, skiing, rowing, boxing, basketball, marathons and even ultra-marathons. Wheeling at least 20K a day, you’ll find him touring from North Vancouver to Dundarave and well beyond, including fourteen-hour days from Deep Cove to UBC.

A former tree-faller, or arborist, Guerrero loved his job climbing 70-foot trees and swinging around with a handsaw. Outgoing and fearless outside of his profession as well, he did a lot of off-road biking and motorcycle riding—this is what led to his accident. “After hitting a pothole on my motorcycle in 2018, I sustained a broken back, neck, ribs, shoulder and arm.” he says. Waiting for the ambulance with people all around him, he realized that he couldn’t feel his legs.

After the accident he worried about losing his sense of freedom. Two months at GF Strong started to change that, because this is where Guerrero learned how to do everything for himself.  It’s also where he met SCI BC Peer Coordinator, Ryan Clarkson, “Ryan came into my room and told me exactly what I needed to know,” Guerrero recalls. “He somehow knew not to overwhelm me with information, and told me that I could connect to him and others at SCI BC whenever I felt ready, whenever I wanted. Which was beautiful and exactly what I needed.”

Instead of feeling limited, Guerrero decided to forge his own path, and rediscover his fearlessness again by taking up sports. He found others on Instagram who motivated him. Now, he wants to encourage others with an SCI.

“Sure, everything is harder, but you can still live your best life,” he says. “I want to share my story and help other people because I want other people’s possibilities to be bigger too.”

And who can help but be galvanized into action by our Team Captain. The rush of happiness he gets from his adventures is contagious—just check out his Instagram account. It’s full of adrenaline pumping activities and a lot of laughter. “If you’re down in the dumps, you should get outside and get active,” he says. “You’d be surprised how much that helps—it’s great for the body and the mind.”

His motivation for racing in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge? “It encompasses everything I do.” he says. And this year it really does! All over the province people will be wheeling, walking, rowing, boxing, hand-cycling and more, throughout neighbourhoods, trails, sidewalks and living rooms. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, SCC is virtual and pretty much anything goes. If you can time your activity, or measure it, you’re good to go!

Asked what he’d like to do for the Scotiabank Charity Challenge Guerrero replies, “I’d like to row maybe 50, 60 KM. It’s my favourite activity right now – it’s pretty high risk but I really love it.” And his training routine is brisk to say the very least … 1-2 hours of intense home-gym workout, then maybe a couple of hours rowing or track, and THEN, a 20km wheel!

One of his favourite routes is to head over the Lions Gate Bridge and into Stanley Park. “If you want to go fast, you can’t do it on the seawall, but with the lanes closed to cars, I’ve been able to rip down the street as fast as I can—it’s awesome!”

Paulo rowing on blue water with autumn coloured trees and sail boats in the background

“I want to be the kid in a wheelchair who stands out,” says Guerrero. “I don’t want to just match people who walk and run—I want to exceed what they do.”

This determination is what pushes him every day. “I think we tend to give up way too early. I know this first-hand because before I was injured, I gave up continually. I left a lot on the table, and I don’t want to do that anymore.”

His advice to people who are interested in long distance wheeling, or going the extra mile in their chosen activity? “You can go farther than you think, IF you stop listening to your brain,” he says. “You can give yourself a hundred reasons to quit anything at any given time, but as soon as you retrain yourself to stop thinking like this, and start thinking “what if I actually do it?” he continues. “Then no one can touch you. That’s it, you’re golden, and you’ve won the race at that point.”

Join our Scotiabank Charity Challenge Team Captain by signing up to become a racer, or by making a donation to the team!

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