Ryan Straczynski, a member of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team who sustained a broken back in last April’s tragic bus crash, is one of nine Canadians affected by spinal cord injury acting as team leaders in this year’s Wings for Life Organized App Run on May 5.
Straschnitzki is part of #TeamCoast2Coast, whose goal is to accumulate 5,550 virtual kilometres (the distance across Canada) with the help of participants across the country, either racing in real time or via the Wings for Life mobile app.
The race follows the traditional Wings for Life format, with a common global start time (May 5, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. UTC or 6:00 a.m. ET) and no finish line. Instead, there is a catcher car which, once it overtakes a runner, their race is done. (The virtual race works the same way.) The point is to stay ahead of the catcher car for as long as possible, accumulating as many kilometres as possible.
Straschnitzki was on the Humboldt Broncos team bus the day of the crash last April that killed 16 of his teammates and associates. Sustaining incomplete fractures to his T2 and T3 vertebrae, he now has the use of some parts of his chest and arms, with decreasing sensation and mobility below the chest. He continues to undergo extensive rehabilitation to improve his mobility.
We reached Straschnitzki by phone at home in Airdrie, Alta., north of Calgary. “Raising money towards spinal cord injuries is a great cause,” he said. “The sooner we can find a cure, the better off people are. Obviously it’s a great event, it’s a good run, it gets people in shape. It’s an all-round great event.
“I can’t participate in the race, to preserve my shoulder, but I’ll show up to show my support, and to get people out there… being there for the people who can’t be there, raising money towards a good cause, creating friendships and bonds over time.”
Straschnitzki will be on-site in Calgary as a team leader on May 5, along with Paralympian skier Josh Dueck. The event takes place on the Bow River Pathway, starting in the East Village and looping around to the Peace Bridge and back to Sidewalk Citizen, for a loop of approximately 5K. Runners may do the loop as many times as they can, or until they are caught by the catcher car.
#TeamCoast2Coast’s tagline is “Canadians running for those who can’t,” and is the brainchild of Jim Mullan of Halifax and Mike Shaw of Vancouver, both of whom have also experienced serious spinal cord injuries. Mullan was injured in a diving accident, and Shaw while skiing. Shaw was paralyzed from the neck down and rendered temporarily quadriplegic, but with extensive rehabilitation was able to re-learn how to walk, and eventually became a marathon runner.
The live Wings for Life Organized App Run is taking place in seven locations in Canada: Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, London, Ont. and Dunnville, Ont. on May 5. The entry fee is $23, and 100 per cent of entry fees and donations go to spinal cord research funded by the Wings for Life foundation. There are currently 10 studies being conducted in Canada funded by the foundation.