Soldier On sends injured to Whistler

Soldier sent on trip to Whistler

MS Philippe Burton (far right) joins his fellow Soldier On members in Whistler at the Allied Winter Camp, with Whistler Adaptive Sports Staff (green jackets) in attendance.

After injuring his leg and shoulder on duty, Master Seaman Philippe Burton was nominated to join a group of 11 serving and retired Canadian Armed Forces members and 16 Allied personnel to spend 10 days in Whistler, from Feb 15 to the 26, to enjoy a range of winter sports as part of Solider On’s Allied Winter Camp program.

Despite coming from across Canada, with allies from Australia and Britain, participants had one thing in common – to attempt a return to an active lifestyle.

Soldier On is an integral program of the Canadian Armed Forces that supports former and currently serving members with a visible or non-visible illness or injury to adopt an active lifestyle through sport and physically challenging activities.  

Since 2007, Soldier On has supported over 1,000 ill and injured serving and retired members through participation in Soldier On Sport Camps, such as the Allied Winter Sports Camp and individual equipment and activity grants.  

MS Burton says he stumbled across the program while surfing Facebook one day, and sent a request form in as soon as he could – he decided that if he got it, his main mission on the trip would be to ski.

“I used to ski, race, and teach 10 years ago,” he says. “But I ended up being fitted with a leg brace. When I found I was actually able to ski again that was big for me.”

Apart from skiing, participants were given opportunities to snowboard, play sledge hockey, cross country ski, zipline and bobsleigh, all with the facilitation of the Whistler Adapted Sports Program staff, and led by Ottawa-based Soldier On staff Maj Jay Feyko and PO1 Joe Kiraly.

“The trip was about getting us active again – there was specialized equipment and a physiotherapy specialist to make sure we could have fun in a safe way,” MS Burton says.

Sit skis were available, and Capt Adam Hannaford, from CF Health Services Centre (Pacific), provided help or physiotherapy that was required.

The day after bobsleighing, MS Burton says Hockey Canada graciously donated everyone with a “game worn” Team Canada jersey. “We were like kids at Christmas.”  

He adds the most rewarding aspect of the program was the close-knit feel of the group.

“Being with those people, the bond between us troops, sailors, and air men and women, more than anything else, held a healing quality. We ended up like a big family.”

The group was put up on a single floor at the Whistler Athlete Center, and when they weren’t on the mountain or at the other venues, they relaxed in the common room together, discussing their experiences as injured members of the Forces.

“The feeling at the time was not a rank structure. Most of us didn’t know who was what rank, and we kept it that way,” says MS Burton.

“The whole experience made me want to take a look at going back to hockey. Not quite contact hockey yet, though. If I could do a Soldier On event again, I would go back in a heartbeat.”

Rachel Lallouz
Staff Writer

 

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