Catholic Social Services’ community inclusion co-ordinator Sherry Albrecht

Catholic Social Services’ community inclusion co-ordinator Sherry Albrecht

A chariot into nature

When Krista Thiessen of Red Deer hit the ground for the first time in the TrailRider, she couldn’t stop smiling. “It’s something like you’ll never experience at all,” said Thiessen, 30. “Just the greatest opportunity to get out there, see some nature.”

  • Jul. 30, 2014 2:08 p.m.

When Krista Thiessen of Red Deer hit the ground for the first time in the TrailRider, she couldn’t stop smiling.

“It’s something like you’ll never experience at all,” said Thiessen, 30. “Just the greatest opportunity to get out there, see some nature.”

The TrailRider, a custom made wilderness access vehicle for those with disabilities, crushes boundaries when it comes to conquering rough terrain.

It goes where wheelchairs simply can’t, with its one wheel design and handles at the front and back for two or three sherpas (helpers) to move it onwards — both pushing and pulling. Some liken it to a wheelbarrow, others say it reminds them of a futuristic rickshaw.

Red Deer aquired its first and sole TrailRider in April 2013 after a local ad-hoc committee spent years fundraising — TrailRiders can cost upwards of $6,000. It’s available for anyone for free from The Lending Cupboard on 43rd Street.

“People don’t know it’s here so we want to get the word out,” said Walter Maidens, operations manager at The Lending Cupboard. “It was at the Hub and they gave it to us about two months ago so it’s the first time we’ve had something like this here and we just want to see someone use it. They can have it for as long as they want.”

No special training is required. Operating the TrailRider is pretty straightforward and “goof-proof,” Maidens added.

A number of the riders can be found out at Rocky Mountain House and in Banff National Park throughout the summer on special weekends hosted by the Canadian Paraplegic Association.

It was during one of these “adaptive challenges” that Thiessen tried out the TrailRider.

“My parents had heard of it before but we didn’t know where we could get one or rent one as they’re pretty expensive,” said Thiessen. She has since been out around the Kerry Wood Nature Centre on the rider. She said she never knew the area was so beautiful.

Sherry Albrecht, community inclusion co-ordinator at Catholic Social Services, has been involved with pushing for more TrailRider exposure in Red Deer for years.

“I got involved because I think it’s a great way that able-bodied people can help others who might not have that opportunity and then they get to meet people with disabilities and see they’re people just like you and me who enjoy the outdoors,” she said.

“It can go down narrow trails and moves easily on the grass,” said Albrecht. “In Kananaskis Country, they often bring people right to the top of mountains with the TrailRider.”

Albrecht takes a number of people out on the rider whenever she can to introduce them to it.

Last week, she helped Eric Kary, 39, born with cerebral palsy, explore Victoria Park beyond the limitations of his wheelchair.

“We thought we’d see how he would like it,” said Albrecht, who showed Kary’s community disability workers Colby Reid and Amber-Rose McShane how to be sherpas.

“It’s great,” said McShane. “We wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise. And it’s easy with three people, not heavy at all.”

The TrailRider has gone on to make groundbreaking strides across the world for people with disabilities, including taking a woman with multiple sclerosis to Mount Everest’s base camp in 2007. It’s also apparently trundled up the 5,900-metre ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, twice.

It was first developed in 1998 by Canadians Sam Sullivan of the Disability Foundation and engineer and Tetra Society volunteer Paul Cermak. According to the Disability Foundation, the concept was originally drawn on back of restaurant napkin and the design was based on a deck lounge chair.

Made of lightweight aluminum, the TrailRider has its own brakes controlled from the rear handles, extendable legs for stationary support and a “Mummy wrap” to keep travellers warm and dry against all elements. It also folds up to fit into a small car.

To take the TrailRider for a trek, contact the Lending Cupboard at 403-356-1678.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A worker is constructing the frame of a new building at Clearview Ridge, near 30th Avenue and 67th Street in Red Deer. (Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff).
Alberta wages fell more than any other province in Canada in 2020

Alberta compensation fell by six per cent last year

People board and leave at the Century Park light-rail transit station in Edmonton on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

‘Racism is a real problem:’ Growing number of attacks against Black Muslim women

Alberta Health Services declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Revera Aspen Ridge on Feb. 1. (Photo by Advocate staff)
Two COVID deaths linked to Revera seniors residence in Red Deer

35 active COVID cases at seniors residence

Red Deer musician Lorry Boschman has written a song about love in the time of COVID-19. Proceeds from his single, Romance during a Pandemic, will be donated to the local United Way. (Contributed photo).
Local musician records a song about love in the time of COVID-19 — for charity

Lorry Boschman will donate some proceeds to the United Way

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can accommodate up to 20 patients requiring a ventilator, says Alberta Health Services.  File photo by Advocate staff
Opinion: UCP government reneging on Red Deer hospital funding

Another year, another Alberta budget and another blow to central Albertans. Budget… Continue reading

Seattle Storm guards Sue Bird, right, and Jordin Canada pose for photos Wednesday, March 3, 2021, on the roof of the Space Needle in Seattle after they raised a flag with the team's new logo on it. Bird re-signed with the Storm earlier in the week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Sue Bird staying busy with 20th Seattle season on horizon

Lille players celebrate after Jonathan David scored his side's second goal during the French League One soccer match between Lille and Marseille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

David scores 2 as Lille wins to stay two points clear of PSG

Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky, right, passes the ball in front of Argentina forward Sole Jaimes (9) during the second half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Alphonso Davies and Shelina Zadorsky have been named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Phelan M. Ebenhack
Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Davies, Zadorsky named Canada Soccer’s players of the month for February

Manchester United's Fred, left, and Crystal Palace's Jordan Ayew challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Selhurst Park stadium in London, England, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Mike Hewitt/Pool via AP)
Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Grueling season starting to catch up with Man U, Leicester

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Gary Sanchez goes deep, Yankees hit three home runs to beat Blue Jays 4-1

Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dunks as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. The undermanned Toronto Raptors, down five players and six members of their coaching staff due to health and safety protocols, are scheduled to host the Detroit Pistons in their first action since last Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carlos Osorio
Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Powell, Lowry do their bit but undermanned Raptors beaten handily by the Pistons

Canada's Ghislaine Landry, left, runs past France players during the Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, Friday, July 20, 2018. The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, grounded last year by the pandemic, will return for the women in May. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Chiu
World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

World Rugby unveils condensed 2021 sevens schedule with Vancouver a question-mark

Most Read