Everyone at Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI BC) is elated to introduce you to Richard “Bear” Peter, our new Lower Mainland Peer Coordinator.
Richard is a Paralympic wheelchair basketball champion who has been winning accolades on and off the courts for his leadership, dedication and focus, for many years.
Although he was injured when he was only four years old in a bus accident, Richard has always been an athlete. A Cowichan Tribes member, Richard grew up in Duncan B.C. and was constantly playing sports with his huge extended family. “We played baseball, football, hockey, and we always figured out ways for me to participate,” says Richard.
So when a wheelchair basketball team came to his school to do a demonstration, Richard didn’t really want to get involved. “I didn’t want to identify specifically as a ‘disabled person’. I was happy with what I was doing,” says Richard. “But then I always accept different challenges so I gave this demonstration team a try. Our mayor was there and a few politicians and the media and I went out there and kicked their butts.” And so began Richard’s life-long career in wheelchair sports.
Richard joined his local wheelchair basketball team when he was 15-years-old and by the time he was 22, he was part of Team Canada. He has since helped his team win gold at the Paralympic games in 2000, 2004 and 2010. They took home silver in 2008.
Throughout the years, Richard has always been focused on constant improvement. “After the 2000 Paralympic games, I decided I wanted to become a starter, and I realized I needed to have better fitness, to become a better defender, and I needed to shoot and score more. So I started training really hard, and I became a starter soon afterwards. I’ve done that every year: I reevaluate myself and see how I can help the team, if I need to pass better or if I need to score more, so I’ve always improved my game every year.”
Richard applies this philosophy to other aspects of his life as well. As one of the only First Nations athletes in the Canadian Paralympics, he’s become a big role model in First Nations communities, and he proudly takes on public speaking engagements throughout the province.
“I’ve had lots of support—first with family and with the community, and then with the wheelchair sports community, and the BCPA also—so I like to give back to the communities that helped me out.”
“I’m really proud to be a role model for my family, for the First Nations community, and for the disabled community, but on the other hand, I don’t consider myself a role model. I’m just doing what I really love!” says Richard.
“I like to help people get involved with whatever it is that they really enjoy. Yes, you’ve encountered a disability, but you can still enjoy sports, ride a horse, go back to school, enjoy nature, enjoy life!”
Richard’s leadership and mentorship skills will serve him well in his position as a Peer Coordinator, and everyone at Spinal Cord Injury BC is thrilled to welcome him to the team.
“The Working Together program was a key factor in enabling us to bring Richard on board,” says Chris McBride, SCI BC’s executive director. “We are very grateful for the excellent service we received from the friendly and professional staff at the Neil Squire Society in facilitating Richard’s employment with us through this great new program.”
The Working Together program was launched in October and is designed to help people with disabilities find meaningful work opportunities. If you haven’t heard about it yet, visit the Neil Squire Society website, or read about it in our latest issue of the Spin (page 26).
You can learn more about Richard on his Wheelchair Basketball profile page, and you can reach him at email@example.com. He will be working most weekdays at Spinal Cord Injury BC’s GF Strong Resource Office.