My name is Veronica Coombes and I am fifteen years old. I currently reside in Shediac Cape, N.B. I have just returned from the Canada Games, in Sherbrooke Quebec, where I was proud to represent New Brunswick in wheelchair racing. Not only did I represent my province, I received three silver medals and am thrilled to say I also beat my personal best time in the 1500m by over 20 seconds. I am now ranked 3rd in 100m, 200m and 400m distance wheelchair races in all of Canada.
I would have never dreamt that I would be capable of these accomplishments! I was born with Spina Bifida, which attacks and damages the spine. Unable to walk from birth, I always had physical and social challenges. For example, at school, I had to adapt to the fact that I was different and not able to participate in the schoolyard games played by my peers. I remember watching my two older brothers play soccer, I loved cheering them on and watching them perform well, but it was also hard not to have those accomplishments myself. In 2009, I was invited to participate in a new program started by my current coach, Gabriel Leblanc. A whole new world opened up for me. For the first time, I had something in common with others. My confidence grew, not only on the track but in social situations as well. With this sport I have been able to make new friends with the track team in New Brunswick and across Canada. If I could choose only one word to describe how participating in track makes me feel, I would say "equal." All athletes on my team, disability or no disability, respect each other as athletes. I have had the privilege to meet and inspire other persons with a physical disabiltiy in hopes that they take the opportunity to come out, be active and feel part of a community.
Unlike able-body athletes who need a $200 pair of track shoes, a wheelchair racer needs a $ 6000 racing chair to participate. I am also hoping to raise funds to allow me to travel to diffrent competition in 2014.
Access to this specialized, adapted equipment is hard to acquire due to the price tag and my goal is to represent not only New Brunswick but also Canada in the Paralympics one day. There are many steps from where I am now and the Paralympics, but I am willing to be focused and do my part. I believe I can reach this dream with a great coach "“ which I have, blood, sweat and tears training - which I am willing to do, and a good racing chair "“ which I need.
I understand the cost of this piece of equipment is extremely high and I want to ensure you know that this chair will last me a lot longer than someone's running sneakers. However, when the day does come, this chair will remain with the Athletics NB club for another athlete to use. I really appreciate any support you are able to offer and I thank you for helping me reach my dream.
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