By Randy Pinsky
Gusting winds, rainy forecasts, and an early start failed to dampen the excitement and determination exhibited at the 9th annual Oka National Park Run for the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped (WIAIH)! The dreary November morning was counterbalanced by the contagious energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers in fluorescent vests and the hundreds of pumped-up runners.
As described on their website, WIAIH “strives to enhance the lives of people with an intellectual disability or autism, provide support to their families, and maintain and develop innovative services and sensitize the community”. Celebrating almost 60 years of involvement, the organization provides early intervention for those with developmental delays, in addition to coordinating parent support groups, social activities, and respite care.
Through their work, WIAIH “promotes independence and socialization for [their clients] through a variety of dynamic and fun activities that can be enjoyed with their peers”.
The event’s coordination team deserves special mention for their innovativeness, dispatching volunteers to their designated stations using moving vans, out of which volunteers leaped like members of a SWAT team. Swiftly pitching tents, keeping runners hydrated with water and electrolytes, they enthusiastically cheered runners on, reinforcing the importance of their involvement. Cheering, “you’re all heroes” and “do it for the families”, runners pushed beyond their limits, motivated by the transformative work WIAIH does.
Runners and walkers alike warmed up at their respective starting times, be it for the 5K, 10K, 21K or the extremely popular 1K Kids Fun Run. Montrealer Louis-Philippe Garnier led the half-marathon with an impressive timing of 1h17min53sec with Marie-Claude Le Sauteur not far behind at 1h28min20sec. In the Kids Fun Run, Collin Ocean easily overtook the others, covering the distance in 4min5sec with Nellie Pilon Pointe-Calumet leading the girls at a respectable 4min29sec.
One of the most courageous participants was Sonia Guarascio, single mom of a little boy with Down syndrome, athlete extraordinaire- and breast cancer survivor. Not only did she persevere through her challenges, she inspired and led the pack in her fundraising efforts.
At press time, over $100,000 had been raised and, as noted by Tracy Wency, head of recreation, they’re still counting!
Don’t miss the 10th edition of the WIAIH Oka National Park Run- start training today!