Leora Shipley knows a thing or two about warriors.
Her eldest son, Nathan, was born with severe spastic quadriplegia, limiting the use of his legs and his arms. Despite his disability, the 18-year-old has battled through everything from daily struggles, such as feeding himself breakfast, to a number of major surgeries.
Then there’s Shipley, herself.
With her husband, Peter, the 44-year-old South Surrey mom has worked hard to create a better quality of life for Nathan and his eight-year-old brother, Jason.
“That’s just life. I’ve kind of been a warrior for 18 years for (Nathan), advocating for him and supporting him, taking care of him when he’s recovering from major surgeries. And it’s been rough,” she said.
“I think every person, when they become a parent, gets a little more fierce. It’s like protecting your babies. Nobody messes with your kid. But when you have a kid who has a disability, and quite a significant one like Nathan does, it’s just that extra bit of fighting and battling.”
That inner strength will be the driving force for Shipley next week, when she is set to participate in the Woman 2 Warrior charity obstacle and adventure race, covering five kilometers of trails, track and grass around Burnaby Central Park and Swangard Stadium Sept. 21.
The course will feature 12 different obstacles to test strength, agility, balance and the participants’ sense of adventure.
“They haven’t even told us what the obstacles are,” Shipley laughed.
Shipley’s interest in the race was first piqued in the summer after reading an email from the camp at Easter Seals – which Nathan has been attending since his early teens. Despite her admitted lack of exercise for the past few years, Shipley began to consider taking on the challenge.
“I felt that my son faces everyday challenges, like huge challenges, that most of us don’t have any idea about. Eating breakfast is a challenge for him every morning. Just holding a spoon and feeding himself is a very big thing,” she said.
“He’s had lots of surgeries. In fact, he has another surgery coming up on the 25th, right after the event. And I just thought, we’ve never accepted from him when he tells us ‘I can’t do that, it’s too hard.’”
When both her sons heard about her idea, the duo encouraged Shipley to sign up and start training.
“I couldn’t really say I can’t do it, and that it’s really challenging. That probably wouldn’t fly too well.”
Funds from the race will help send youth with disabilities to Easter Seals camps in B.C.
For Shipley, there couldn’t have been a better cause to raise funds for. The entire family, she said, is grateful for the opportunities provided through the camps for Nathan.
And Jason participated in the Easter Seals 24-Hour Relay for the kids this year, raising $600 in two weeks.
“It really has been the one thing that has made such an impact on (Nathan’s) life – and his quality of life. It’s something that he looks forward to all year long. Every kid who goes to Easter Seals camp feels the same way, I would think,” she said. “Because it has been so, so beneficial to him I’m doing it.”
And, after 18 years of placing her personal needs on the back burner, Shipley said she has been enjoying taking some time to get healthy.
Using apps and online resources, Shipley said she is trying to push herself a little each day in order to prepare for the big race.
“(The kids) kind of pushed me into it. But you know, I was up for it. I was ready for a challenge. We all needed challenges in our lives, even if you’ve been lucky to never have been challenged by life’s circumstances.
“That’s what helps you grow as a person.”
For more information on the race, visit www.woman2warrior.ca