Zola treasures her time at Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan. (submitted)

Zola treasures her time at Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan. (submitted)

Coming up in Cowichan: MS Bike this weekend; Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan

MS Bike is personal for Heather Armstrong

MS Ambassador Heather Armstrong has been a long-time volunteer for the MS Society of Canada BC and Yukon Division. She’s been involved with the Society as a volunteer in different initiatives, but the work she’s done to help people living with multiple sclerosis is what resonates with her the most.

“My eight years of volunteer service with the MS Society is what I feel is particularly close to my heart. I have MS and my mother had MS, she passed away this past September,” explained Armstrong.

Since 2004, Armstrong has assisted the MS Society in many capacities, crediting the organization for supporting her at the time of her diagnosis. This year, she’ll be taking part in her 12th MS Bike event, to help enhance the quality of life for people living with MS.

MS Bike, the largest fundraising cycling series in North America, is a fundraising event that offers cyclists of all ages and abilities the opportunity to ride through scenic parts of the province — such as the Cowichan Valley — in support of those affected by multiple sclerosis.

This weekend, Armstrong will join more than 300 cyclists and supporters from across B.C. coming together to ride in the MS Bike – Cowichan Valley Experience, held July 20 and 21 at Shawnigan Lake School. The route will feature a scenic tour through the Cowichan Valley, with stops at notable viewpoints and local wineries along the ride.

Armstrong now serves as the chair of the MS Society’s Coastal Regional Chapter Council. In 2017, the MS Society of Canada BC and Yukon Division awarded her with a Division Award of Merit for her fundraising efforts. She emphasized that volunteering has always been a great way for her to get involved with the local community, meet like-minded people, and make new friends.

“It is important work. I enjoy doing it, my story gets told, people tell me I’m good at it, I help and connect with people and they appreciate it. I’m making a difference!” said Armstrong.

Funds raised from the MS Bike will support innovative research into the cause, treatment and cure of MS while also providing valuable services, programs and advocacy for Canadians that are affected by the disease.

Spots still available at Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan

Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan will be welcoming back kids and young adults with diverse abilities in August and there are still a few spots left.

Camp Shawnigan is a nature-based, outdoor summer camp for children and young adults with a wide range of disabilities who are between the ages of six and 29. With a focus on abilities and empowerment, campers can try activities like the big swing, wheelchair basketball, water polo, and creative and performing arts.

“Camp gives Zola the freedom to truly express herself in whatever form that may take. She has learned how to be brave in trying new experiences, to be a role model for others, and to know the joy of pure play through making new and sometimes, forever, friends,” says Ann, Zola’s mother. “The peace of mind that I feel while Zola is at camp is a rare and precious gift seldom known in my existence as her mama. If Zola is happy, then I’m happy.”

Easter Seals Camps provide a high camper to staff ratio with leaders who are enthusiastic and highly trained to support the needs of a full range of physical and cognitive disabilities. Along with onsite medical care, specialized meals, and customized programs, Easter Seals Camps offer a magical experience for campers and an important respite for families and caregivers.

“These kids often have to face life with others only seeing their disabilities, but camp helps them realize they aren’t defined by their disability, and they instead focus on empowerment and the challenges they can overcome with the support of counsellors and fellow campers,” says James Gagnon, director of Camp and Facilities at Easter Seals.

Camper registration is still open for weeks in August. To register visit www.eastersealscamps.ca.