“Angus Epp and Bobby Shergill both had muscular dystrophy and were in wheelchairs,” explained McMurtry, a French immersion teacher at Panorama Ridge Secondary. “Two decades ago, those two boys got into playing power soccer. They were the first students in Surrey who got involved in adapted school sports.”
Sadly, both Epp and Shergill have since passed, said McMurtry, who was their P.E. teacher 21 years ago and then began organizing power soccer games.
“That was the start of all this,” he added. “Now it’s morphed into something much larger. If they were around today, they’d be pretty happy to see that’s it’s still going on, and dedicated to them. It’s amazing to think that not long ago we weren’t doing anything for kids who couldn’t fit into a regular program. Now, I think we’re doing a lot better.”
The annual Orange Games, held last Friday (Nov. 17), is for elementary-aged students with physical and other needs. For one noisy, very hectic day at Panorama Ridge Secondary, close to 400 kids from schools around Surrey took part in games, sports, dance and other activities.
Twenty busloads of kids showed up for a morning of target hockey, karaoke, “3 Witches Candy House,” a wheelchair obstacle course, James Bond Bean Bag Toss, Dragon Relay Races, basketball, ping pong, a cabaret show and much more, and the youngsters looked like they were loving it.
“I like racing, that’s the best,” said an enthusiastic Dallas Pauloski, a Grade 1 student at Betty Huff Elementary.
Dallas, 6, was born with spina bifida, and began using a wheelchair just last year. In the school’s small gym, he raced around pylons in his wheelchair and also ran with the use of crutches. Either way, he’s fast!
“He came to the (Orange Games) last year,” said his mom, Laura. “He loves this. It’s nice for him to have something special to do and be around so many other kids with the orange T-shirts on and everything. It’s fun.”
Elsewhere, in the school’s dance studio, Jaskarn Sandu, 10, a student at David Brankin Elementary, and Gurnoor Dhadda, 8, who goes to Maple Green Elementary, had fun playing bocce with the use of a ball ramp.
“We have a group here today called SportAbility helping us with bocce, and that organization does that very thing with kids who can’t do regular activities,” noted McMurtry, who organizes the Orange Games.
The Orange Games aren’t just about sports, he noted.
“There are lots of things that are cultural and intellectual,” said McMurtry.
“The cool thing too is, we have probably 400 students from this school involved – almost as many as the competitors here,” he added.
“You look around at all the stations, most of them helping are Grade 9 kids, and if you look at their faces, you can tell they’re really focused and doing their best, and that’s great. This is a wonderful thing not just for the kids who come, but it reminds the high school students just how darned lucky they are not to have the problems many of our young visitors have. It serves the kids of our school just as much as it serves the young visitors here today.”
As for the event title, the colour orange simply stands out and represents something special for a day of fun for all involved, McMurtry said.
“Part of the idea is giving them sunshine for the day, because it’s hard when you have a disability that people don’t see, and sometimes people do see – kids in wheelchairs – but we have kids here who can’t communicate, kids who are blind, kids who are deaf. It’s lovely for them to feel that this day is about them.”