Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, praised her support network for her success as an athlete during an event Tuesday at the Port Theatre to encourage donations to non-profit organizations.
Stilwell, the minister for social development, recounted her personal story of spinal cord injury as a teen and how the support of her family, friends and the community encouraged her to continue athletics, first in wheelchair basketball and then wheelchair racing, in which she won two gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio this past summer.
“We all have that ability to build the community around us,” Stilwell said. “It takes an army of people to help people succeed.”
Stilwell was speaking to a gathering of people on Giving Tuesday, which follows the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping days and aims to encourage donations to non-profit and community organizations.
The event, Mid-Island Gives, was supported by the Nanaimo Foundation along with six other non-profits in Nanaimo, including the Port Theatre, Ladysmith Resources Centre, PacificSport, Vancouver Island Mental Health Society, Volunteer Nanaimo and Nanaimo Community Gardens.
The goal of the Mid-Island gives campaign is to inspire giving in all capacities and encourage all residents to find a way to give to their favourite causes.
Stilwell talked about overcoming challenges and facing adversity, making a conscious decision to be the best friend, daughter and then wife and mother possible.
She said it was that support network that allowed her to pursue wheelchair basketball and then wheelchair racing, although neither sport was without challenges, including financial. She said each specialized chair cost upwards of $8,000-$10,000.
“We all have challenges in life,” Stilwell said. “We all face adversity.”
The seven partner organizations in the event showcased how each one helps people in the community overcome that adversity during the Port Theatre event.
Host Daryl Major, from Island Radio, who rode in this year’s Tour de Rock, suggested that in addition to donating money, citizens can donate time, volunteer or share information about local organizations and the needs in the community.
“Think about how you can help,” Major said.
Information on the Mid-Island Gives campaign can be found at www.midislandgives.ca.
Information on more than 35 Nanaimo community organizations is available on the campaign website.