Brenden Parker

Ensuring the sun shines on other kids’ summers

Surrey teen with cerebral palsy gives back to Camp Squamish, which has made his summers memorable for seven years.

Brenden Parker has accomplished a lot recently.

Last year, he graduated from Clayton Heights Secondary at the age of 17.

He’s now working on a big fundraising effort for a B.C. charity.

Not bad for a teen who can’t walk, dress or feed himself.

Parker, who has advanced Cerebral Palsy (CP) and must rely on an electric wheelchair and the close support of his family, is giving back to Easter Seals Camp Squamish, a place that’s made his summers.

For the last seven years, Parker has gone to Easter Seals Camp Squamish for one week each summer to have fun and meet other kids – and the occasional councillor – with CP.

Thirty-three-acre Camp Squamish, located at the foot of Mount Garibaldi and the mouth of the Squamish River, provides five six-day sessions throughout the summer for hundreds of kids with various physical and mental disabilities.

Up until 2012, admission was free – with funds raised by Easter Seals and its parent charity, the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities.

In 2013, the cost to participants for one week was raised to $100 (a fraction of the actual cost), and this year, $500. The charities would cover the rest.

Parker’s parents paid his “document fee” this year – because of his age, this was his final year at the camp – but Parker decided that the high cost would mean the camp could be out of reach for some families in the future.

His brainchild was Brenden’s Ride for Easter Seals, which takes place Sept. 13.

The objective: To help Camp Squamish to subsidize campers, and to increase awareness of CP.

“It’s all his baby,” says his father Baron. “Physically, he’s screwed, but mentally, he’s always got it on.”

The plan is to gather as many as 150 riders on motorcycles (cars are welcome) to ride from Cloverdale to Camp Squamish for the day.

While Brenden will ride with his mom Sandy and sister Sarah in the family van, Baron will be on his Harley Davidson Road Glide.

Breakfast will be at The Henry in Cloverdale at 9 a.m., followed by a stop at Trev Deely Motorcycles in Burnaby at 11 a.m., and then lunch at Camp Squamish from 12-3 p.m. – with food provided by Langley’s Sammy J’s Grill and Bar.

The afternoon’s entertainment will come courtesy of Langley resident, family friend and Canadian Idol alumnus and country music star Karen Lee Batten.

Baron says the afternoon fundraiser will likely include auction items such as sports memorabilia and local outings.

The support from local donors and volunteers has been huge, says Baron.

The cost to participate in Brenden’s Ride for Easter Seals is $25 – meaning that 20 participants would subsidize one child at next year’s camps – other funding sources take care of the rest of the actual cost of the program, which totals $2,400 per child for one week.

The rise in the admission cost from zero to $500 for each camper over the last two years stems from diminishing sources of income for the Lions Society, which runs Camps Squamish, Camp Shawnigan on Vancouver Island and Camp Winfield in the Okanagan Valley.

The venerable Easter Seals 24 Hour Relay for the Kids, which 15 years ago was an effective fundraising tool, has nearly reached the end of its life due to competition from other charities, says an official.

And while the number of campers this past summer dropped slightly from the previous 800 or so, parents have generally accepted the new reality, says Stephen Miller, president and CEO of the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities and Easter Seals.

Miller explains that unlike other camps for children with specific diseases such as cancer or diabetes, the nature of the Easter Seals camps – for kids with a variety of disabilities – means that volunteers cannot be used, and the camps provide ratios of just one, two or three campers for each properly trained and paid staff member, to ensure proper safety and support.

For Brenden, the camp has been an important part of the past seven summers.

He says he’s always had fun with the experience and the friends he’s made there.

“It’s a way of life for me.”

Pre-registration for Brenden’s Ride for Easter Seals ends on Sept. 2. For more information, visit www.brendensride.com or www.eastersealscamps.ca/

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