Adventures in Kananaskis for SMA Camp

This year’s SMA camp was absolutely awesome!

We had five vehicles (including a motorcycle with a sidecar for a dog) – loaded with CRIS staff and volunteers who drove from Kelowna to Kananaskis and gave kids and their families a weekend of adventure.

William Watson Lodge is an amazing location.  Having breakfast on the deck that overlooks the Lower Kananaskis Lake and the Spray Mountain Range- come on. But hanging out with funny, witty and truly inspiring kids all weekend was definitely the highlight.  After talking to volunteers and staff from CRIS who attended the camp, we just hope the kids and their families had as much fun as we did.

Here are a few words from longtime CRIS volunteer and biker-extraordinaire, Rhonda Peterson:


“I had the opportunity to be around Erin & her family for the hike, bike and kayak.  At first the family seemed very hesitant – in fact I believe that another CRIS person heard Erin, the night previous,  state that she was not going to participate.  Erin was very concerned about us.  She was apologetic when we needed to lift her on the stairs during the hike.  I reassured her that without her out hiking I would not be having such a great holiday.  I heard her dad, Joel state that he wanted to get out hiking more often after this experience.  During the bike ride – Troy (CRIS staff) was in the front and Erin’s dad was piloting Juliet – Erin had a big smile on her face and a squeal in her throat as she whooshed down the hill with her hair flying behind her.  She decided during the interpretative program to just remain in the bike instead of getting back into her chair and having the independence of sitting where she could maneuver herself.  

Erin was one of the first participants to wheel herself to the kayaking area.  Much to her mom’s chagrin, Erin did end up spinning out in the mud.  This did not stop the family from continuing the kayak adventure.  Once Erin was in a kayak, I asked the parents to put on their life jackets and they seemed flabbergasted.  I don’t think they expected that they would be going out in a kayak, too.  At first they joked around that they wanted pontoons and that they couldn’t paddle together and stay afloat but they both got into the same kayak and both returned in the same kayak.  When Erin returned from kayaking she asked for her hands to be free so that she could feel the water.  I continue to be amazed that Erin and her family went from great hesitation to doing all three activities!

I love being outside and I especially love being outside with others who love being outside.  SMA camp is a great opportunity to feel the passion of people having the opportunity to enjoy activities in the great outdoors.” 

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a motor neuron disease that impacts the use of one’s muscles. Atrophy means to get smaller, which is what happens to the muscles.  A person with SMA is fully intact intellectually, but because of the amount of physical barriers, it can be challenging to stay positive.  The parents we met this weekend are their child’s constant cheer leaders. They go above and beyond to provide fun opportunities for their kids and encourage them in new adventures.  Because of the high cost of adaptive equipment, it is rare for these families to have access to adaptive hiking, biking and kayaking opportunities.  Our hope during the SMA camp was to allow families from across Canada to share their struggles and support one another, as well as open a door of possibilities for adventure and exploration in the beautiful Canadian outdoors.  If you could use a little inspiration, come join us on an adventure and meet our participants. We all have barriers to face – some are more visible than others, but we’re stronger when we face them together and surround ourselves with adventurous and courageous people who believe in the impossible.