Competitor with cerebral palsy tackles Calgary Spartan Race thanks to Shriners Hospital

The聽annual Spartan Sprint Race in Calgary brought more than 4,600 people on Saturday.

The event involves 23 obstacles over 5 kilometers at the Wild Rose MX Park in southeast Calgary.

The race is no walk in the park, unless your walk includes climbing ropes, slithering through mud under barbed wire and swimming through a soupy mess of brown water.

鈥淚t’s good, it’s tough. We made it a bit more challenging this year with a few more hills and a few more obstacles,鈥?Dean Stanton, the regional director for Spartan Race Canada, said.

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The funds raised at the race go towards the Shriners Children鈥檚 Hospitals.

One of the people taking part is Phil Arsenault, who was born with cerebral palsy and once used a walker to get around.

鈥淭hey’ve helped me walk. They helped me learn how to walk from my first step – to running. I’ve had many surgeries and thanks to that, I’ve been able to walk and even do a Spartan race today,鈥?Arsenault, a Montreal native who is in Calgary this weekend for the race, said

Arsenault has had 6 surgeries at the Montreal Shiners Hospital to help loosen his cramped muscles.聽 He was thrilled to be able to finish the course with a personal best time, after competing in two other Spartan races this year.

鈥淢y legs right now are really sore, so I’m going to feel this for about a week but it’s worth it. I feel really good that I was able to finish the race and prove to other people that yes, I have cerebral palsy but I’m able to compete in not only one but three Spartan races this summer,鈥?Arsenault said, covered in mud at the finish line.

The Shriners run 22 hospitals across North America. All of them are in the United States, except for one in Montreal and one in Mexico City, according to Bill Miller of Calgary who sits on their board of governors.

鈥淪hriners hospitals have been in existence for 90 some years and we’ve truly helped hundreds of thousands of youngsters that would have gone without medical care in most cases. So it’s been extremely important for Shriners to get involved and to help youngsters across North America,” Miller said.

“It’s really exciting when you see these youngsters come through our hospital and to see them get treated and be well enough to come out and compete in an event like this, it truly shows that anybody with disabilities can do anything that other people can,鈥?Miller said.

Miller said Shriners raises $850 million U.S. per year to operate their hospitals, but as the number of volunteers drop, getting that money is that much tougher.

鈥淚t’s becoming harder and harder to fund our operations every year,鈥?Miller said. 鈥淭he number of Shriners are decreasing in North America the same way as most service organizations are. So it’s becoming more difficult and we are relying more and more on corporate Canada and corporate North America.鈥?/p>

For Phil Arsenault, crossing the finish line in a race like this is something he never thought possible as a child.

鈥淚t’s a dream come true. If you would’ve asked me at the age of five if I would be able to do a race like this? No way. But thanks to all the Shriners that helped me and took the time, I’m able to do this and I’m able to do so many other things in life,鈥?Arsenault said.

Miller says about half of the young Calgary patients that use Shriners medical help go to the Spokane hospital.

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