Mathieu Stever still remembers that March day in 2020 when the pandemic lockdown was declared.
He also remembers the common thinking at the time – just a few weeks of lockdown, then everything should be back to normal.
Mathieu, Manager of the Para New Brunswick Sport & Recreation program, looked over at Ability New Brunswick Executive Director Haley Flaro that day and told her there was no reason for him to stop working.
Sure, organized sport and recreational programs had ground to a halt everywhere amid the high concern and unknowns around the COVID virus at the time.
And, sure, the cornerstone of ParaNB is a loan program involving more than 600 pieces of sport and recreation equipment moving in and out of schools and sporting organizations.
A lockdown would be akin to shoving a stick into the spokes.
Mathieu and his colleagues had other ideas. A lockdown, they decided, was no time for them to be idle – nor, for that matter, should it be for the people they serve.
The Para NB team members worked with personal trainers and physical education specialists to develop a series of 15 videos for students and adults on how to keep active at home.
They developed a catalogue of equipment that could be loaned out, from hockey sledges to adaptive tricycles. They revamped the Para NB website.
They started branching out to other work that could be done during a lockdown, when they were no longer busy travelling to schools, sporting events and conferences.
“There was never a day where we decided we can’t do anything we have to shut down,” Mathieu remembers. “We just decided ‘You know what? This is an opportunity.’”
As that initial lockdown of two weeks stretched into two years of dealing with the pandemic and the various restrictions that came with it, they kept finding more ways to encourage people with a mobility disability to keep moving, to keep healthy and to keep active.
Nearly 1,000 loan requests for adapted equipment were filled over that first year of the pandemic.
People who had never been all that interested in recreation or sport were suddenly, in the isolation of the pandemic, becoming active at home, and that blossomed into a deeper interest in physical activities.
And with that focus on active living, Mathieu and his crew have been busy undertaking accessibility reviews of public parks, trails and beaches – working with governments and others to offer suggestions on how to make their spaces accessible to everyone.
To find out more about Para New Brunswick and the variety of programs and services it offers, visit its home on the web or call Ability New Brunswick at 1-866-462-9555.