Tanner Bawn loves cars. Fast ones. Especially Lamborghinis.
What 12-year-old boy doesn’t get revved up at the thought of hopping into a set of hot wheels and taking off at high speed?
Why would a boy who has been put into a wheelchair by Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, not want to go fast?
Tanner’s mom, Chrissie Bawn, gets that. She loves the outdoors and being active. She’s a runner, a hiker, a skier, a mountain biker and, for the past year or so, a paddleboarder.
An avid paddleboarder.
Bawn took to the sport like a duck to water, so to speak, after trying it at a stagette party last summer. Bodie Shandro taught the group. He also distributes Surftech boards in Canada.
Soon Bawn had her 10-year-old daughter Sophie out on a board with her, sometimes going to Heffley Lake where Shandro lives.
“I got to know Tanner,” Shandro said.
“Poor Tanner’s sitting on the dock all the time.”
It didn’t seem right to anyone.
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Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that causes muscles to degenerate. It causes progressive difficulty with walking and breathing.
The muscle weakness starts in the legs and works its way to the arms, neck and other parts of the body.
Tanner was diagnosed when he was five years old. He has been in a wheelchair for the past few years.
He still attends Pacific Way elementary, where he will graduate from Grade 7 this month. He still fights with his younger sister, Sophie, like siblings do. He still gets quiet when talking to reporters.
He’s a pretty typical kid in a not-so-typical body.
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Dave Stewart used to get up in the pre-dawn hours to train on his bike. He loved sports — cycling, surfing, wind surfing, skiing, a long list of activities. He loved being outdoors.
On June 30, 2006, his early morning ride was cut short by a car doing a U-turn at Lansdowne and Third.
Stewart’s legs haven’t worked since. But he’s found some ways to get outdoors, using adapted equipment such as sit skis.
He tries to help others do the same.
“Everyone needs exercise,” he said.
“When you have a disability, you appreciate getting into the outdoors maybe a bit more than the average person.”
Because when you’re in a wheelchair, it usually means you’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, rehab centres and doctors’ offices. All such sterile environments.
It feels good to get somewhere natural.
* * *
On June 30, 2006, Chrissie Bawn was with a friend downtown. They were the first to arrive at an accident scene and they stayed until paramedics got there to take care of a seriously injured cyclist.
She didn’t know the man.
But she recognized him a year later when she was at Hot Night in the City with Sophie and Tanner, who by then was in a wheelchair.
Stewart was in a wheelchair, too. It took him a few moments to place Bawn’s face.
“I knew her, but I wasn’t sure from where. I saw that her son was in a wheelchair. I recognized their situation and just wanted to lend a hand wherever I could,” he said.
“I do know what it’s like to be in a chair. When you want to do something, you have to think it through.”
Over the years, he has lent the family adapted equipment and pointed out options like Sun Peaks’s sit-ski program.
He even passed on some AC/DC tickets that he’d been offered by a family who was losing someone to ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
”They couldn’t use them so they offered them to me. I put them in touch with Tanner,” he said.
* * *
Stewart and Shandro have a new challenge before them. How to adapt a stand up paddleboard so Tanner can ride the water with his mom and sister.
The board that was donated to the Bawns is almost four metres long, a traditional board that’s wide enough to provide a stable platform.
Shandro said an outrigger — like an attached float on the side — can be added if necessary, or foam pieces can be fitted to the sides.
He was confident the modified board will work. It’s just a matter of coming up with a seat that can fit Tanner’s needs and be flattened enough for his mom to transport in her van.
“This is the first I’m aware of in the world to be adapted,” he said of the soon-to-be rejigged paddleboard.
Rejigging, however, will cost money. The board was donated, and the Rack Shack is giving Bawn a rack to carry her family’s paddleboards.
But there will be a price to designing and custom building a seat for Tanner.
Since the money is going to Tanner’s paddleboard, it seemed only appropriate to raise the funds via paddleboard. So on Friday, That First Glide — a movie about stand up paddling — is being aired at TRU with donations going to the customized seat.
“We hope to have him in the water within the next month,” said Shandro.
Stewart is offering his expertise and help to the project.
“Any time you can be at the beach, it’s a great family environment.”
* * *
When you’re a mother of two kids and you’re trying to share with them the joys of being outdoors and active, you have a busy life.
When one of those kids is in a wheelchair, you need the support of others.
Bawn has that support. She’s been grateful for it. The best reward for everyone involved will be to see Tanner push off into the water on his paddleboard. On his own.
“I haven’t swum in a long time,” he said. The other adapted sports he’s tried, like sit skiing, have been good. This will be, too, especially with family.
“This is something his sister and I do a lot so it’ll be great,” said Bawn.
He won’t go as fast as he would in a Lamborghini. He will, however, have a taste of freedom.
“He just smiles more and he’s more relaxed when he’s out. He’s so restricted so much of the time in the power chair.”
Catch the film, help Tanner get on board
That First Glide is a movie filmed in Hawaii that’s all about stand up paddling.
Its Canadian debut is being held in Kamloops on Friday, June 8, at the Clock Tower Theatre at Thompson Rivers University at 7 p.m.
More than that, it’s also a fundraiser to design and equip a paddleboard for Tanner Bawn, a 12-year-old boy with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy.
The board was donated by Surfit and Surftech. Now it needs to be adapted so Tanner can get out on the water with his family.
Tickets are $15 and are available by calling 250-318-0722 or 250-852-1967.