Arts and Entertainment

Wheelchairs rally for a decade of events

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Land speed records might not be broken but Sequim's Wheelchair Rodeo could lasso up plenty of good times.


Organizer Margaret Witt brings back the event for a 10th year following last year's successful turn and a five-year hiatus.


“The first time we held it they gelled and it was like they were already together for years and years,” Witt said.


Close to 20 participants, some born with disabilities and some more recent wheelchair riders, come to the event to race, see old friends and share in good times at Sequim's Station 34.


Steve Vogel, fire chief for Clallam County Fire District 3, said the event isn't so much about the racing as coming together to have a lot of fun and talk.


“Some of them are isolated all year long and this gives them an opportunity to meet and smile in a healthy, fun atmosphere,” Vogel said.


Witt said the event is one part a good time and the other an advocacy piece she started to help give those who use wheelchairs a voice in Clallam County.


“When someone is diagnosed or placed in a wheelchair they are devastated because they are used to going and doing whatever they want,” Witt said.


She said transportation options are limited here and those issues add to the sense of isolation felt by some. Witt uses the example of her husband, Howard, who used a wheelchair after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. After his diagnosis he didn't leave home for five years, but with encouragement he found new joys in playing cards and being social again.


“Most people have to swallow their pride,” she said.


As for the event's impact, Witt said people continue to come so it must matter for some, but she's uncertain of its long-term impact.


“I'm not sure we've educated people because then we'd be further ahead,” Witt said.


She continues to hope people within the mobility-challenged community will come forward and advocate for themselves. Witt also hopes for, and continues to seek funding for, a bus that holds five to seven wheelchairs so people can travel across the Olympic Peninsula if needed.


The Wheelchair Rodeo is an independent event and is free and open to spectators. Witt said participants enjoy having others to cheer them on.


For more information on the Wheelchair Rodeo, call Margaret Witt at 683-3091 or Fire Chief Steve Vogel at 683-4242.




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