Nothing builds spirit quite like a collective sporting event, and this year's World Cup-themed Games at Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre did not disappoint.
The goal of the outdoor event, which brought together more than 200 patients, staff, volunteers, family members and community partners, is to try different adapted sports and recreational activities during a friendly competition between spinal cord injury patient units at Lyndhurst.
Now in its third year, the Games have become a tradition that everyone looks forward to.
Nicole Leong, Recreation Therapist and organizer of the annual games, reflects on the impact of the Games on both patients and staff alike.
Sparking an interest in recreation and leisure
Recently, Lyndhurst hosted our World Cup-themed games and the feeling of excitement and camaraderie is still in the air.
When I first designed the games in 2015, I never would have expected the idea to be embraced so thoroughly by the team.
After all, Lyndhurst is a busy place where staff are committed to delivering the best possible care to our patients and helping them prepare to return safely to their communities. Carving out time to tackle additional projects can be a challenge.
But as the benefits of the Games have become more and more apparent that same sense of commitment has been extended to what is now a tradition.
From a patient's point of view, the games represent an opportunity to try something new, such as hand cycling, wheelchair basketball, seated Tai Chi and bocce ball. All activities they can participate in post-rehab.
In fact, after the event a number of patients started asking me for more information about where to find these types of activities in their own communities.
It feels incredibly rewarding to be able to spark an interest in recreation and leisure and show patients what's possible.
Over the years what's become really clear is that patients feel most confident and comfortable taking part in these events when their therapists, nurses and doctors are there to cheer them on.
But that's not to say staff are relegated to the bleachers. In fact, active participation from all corners of the hospital is paramount to the event's success.
Maintenance ensures the grounds are safe, therapists transfer patients into hand cycles, some staff buddy up with patients to help them travel from station to station, while others form a 'dance pack' to get the crowds excited.
Thanks to the teamwork exercised by our staff, we're able to create a safe and fun atmosphere for patients to push their limits.
Feedback from my colleague Lara, an occupational therapist who assisted at the hand cycling station, says it all.
"I look forward to this event each year as a chance to work with my colleagues from across the hospital and use our combined expertise to allow patients to try things they may otherwise not be able to," she says.
"Seeing patients try new activities, with a smile on their faces, makes this a memorable day."