Wheelchair racers raise awareness for spinal cord patients

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Rick Lapierre has spent his entire life seated in a wheelchair - but he hasn't let it bring him down.

The Cornwall man was one of many on hand for Thursday's wheelchair race to draw awareness to those who suffer with spinal cord injuries.

The event, hosted by the Canadian Paraplegic Association (Ontario), had abled-bodied people and others who must use a wheelchair every day, race through an obstable course while seated in the chair.

Lapierre, who has spina bifida, a developmental congential disorder which affects the spine, has not let life in a wheelchair keep him from exercising some independance.

He drives, works part-time and enjoys hockey games in person at the Cornwall Civic Complex.

"This event is really eye-opening for people," he said Thursday as contestants readied themselves for the race, which included an obstacle course. "They don't know what it's like to be in a wheelchair day-to-day.

"This shows them what we can and can't do in our daily lives."

Sarah McKinnon, community development officer for the paraplegic association, said the hope is that in addition to $5,000 the group wanted to raise at the event, more awareness will be created for spinal cord injury patients.

"That's how you gain more of an understanding for these people," she said.

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