Veteran Adventures becomes more inclusive
Since its inception last year, it’s been Veteran Adventures’ aim to make it easier for veterans to explore the great outdoors.
The program, which is organized by the Jasper Royal Canadian Legion, gives veterans across Canada access to equipment such as tents, canoes and kayaks. While the program is filled with good intentions, legion president Ken Kuzminski said he recently encountered a problem when he met Victoria’s Mike Seinen, a retired Royal Canadian Navy officer.
While biking to work in 2010, Seinen was hit by a car, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
Despite his physical challenges, Seinen was determined to stay active, learning how to ride a hand bike. Just this summer Seinen took part in a group ride from Lake Louise to Jasper, which is when he met Kuzminski.
“I started telling Mike about the Veteran Adventures program and I told him he should come back and go kayaking with us,” Kuzminski said.
However, despite feeling grateful, Seinen said kayaking would probably be impossible for him.
“I have absolutely no core strength so I wouldn’t be able to sit up—I would just end up sliding down in the kayak,” Seinen said, adding that his hand bike allows him to practically lay down.
However, Kuzminski wasn’t ready to take no for an answer. He went straight to the drawing board.
After a few weeks, Kuzminski fashioned a makeshift chair out of an old backpack and some cushions, a contraption he was sure would accommodate Seinan. The chair was then plopped into a fishing kayak, which is a little wider and steadier than the usual kayak.
“Basically he just needs something that will hold him up. So I figured the backpack straps would do the trick,” Kuzminski said. “The whole point of Veteran Adventures is to be inclusive to all veterans. If we can’t do that then I know we’ve got work to do.
“Hopefully something like this gives people like Mike a bit of freedom to do things they might not have been able to do.”
After completing his invention, Kuzminski phoned up Seinan, asking him if he’d like to come back to Jasper and give the kayak a shot.
“I was never much of kayaker before my accident, but it sounded like fun,” Seinan said.
Feeling hopeful, Kuzminski helped Seinen into the newly adapted kayak, Sept. 4.
Secured in his position, Seinen launched off with ease and the two spent the rest of the morning paddling around Pyramid Lake.
“It’s really nice to have this set-up,” Seinan said. “I’ve never felt like I couldn’t do things—it’s just all about modifying and adjusting things so it can work with the way my body works.”
Veteran Adventures also offers the use of mountain bikes, fishing equipment and various other camping necessities.
“Being able to help people like Mike is what it’s all about,” said Keith Henderson, coordinator for the program. “Seeing him being able to use that kayak is so rewarding.”