SCI Saskatchewan golf tournament raises funds and awareness

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Blair Morgan makes a shot on the ninth of Mark's Nine on the solo rider provided by Golf Saskatchewan at the fourth SCI golf tournament on Saturday.

Empowering clients was the main message as Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Saskatchewan hosted their fourth golf tournament fundraiser at Marks Nine Golf & Country Club on Saturday.

SCI Saskatchewan returned to the golf course for the fourth time to have some fun and raise some awareness. Bill Lehne, president of Spinal Cord Saskatchewan, is originally from the Prince Albert area, and was happy with the day.

The tournament saw just over 15 teams and 62 golfers entered to play in a team best ball scramble on the course located north of Prince Albert. Lehne said the tournament is vital to SCI’s work.

“It’s critical to the development of supports for our members,” Lehne said. “We continue to provide adaptive equipment through the need of our members. But more importantly, our peer support program has been critical to the rehabilitative process.

“It really is critical when people have that first injury and that trauma scenario that the peer support program is initiated and accessed to expedite that rehabilitation process.”

Lehne is in his 40th year with a spinal cord injury. He said he has a few years in the trenches both as a person with an injury and as an advocate.

He was injured in 1983. He began to use the SCI system and has now been on the board for 30 years. He has served the last six years as president.

“It’s so critical that you have that strong leadership,” Lehne explained. “But more importantly, somebody that understands the needs of the members and that just helps with the growth not only of the organization, but the people who we talk to.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald SCI Saskatchewan President Bill Lehne addressed the players at the fourth SCI golf tournament on Saturday.

Lehne said the rehabilitation process used by many people with spinal cord injuries is too restrictive. One of SCI’s goals is to help patients customize an approach to rehab that works best for them.

“What we need to do is customize that approach and have it for a full spectrum of service delivery, not just to rehab, not just education, not just employment,” he explained. “It’s a lifelong journey and that’s the critical piece that the government and the health system don’t necessarily understand.”

Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan serves more than 1,100 clients across the province who have suffered a spinal injury or have other physical disabilities. The organization has headquarters in Saskatoon, with a regional office in Regina.

Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan rebranded from the Saskatchewan Paraplegic Association when the national chapter changed their name, but the organization’s history goes back to the 1940s.

The organization originally started serving Second World War veterans who returned as amputees, since they had no service provider when they came home.

“Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan setting up is to provide continuity to that legacy and that’s so critical with these fundraiser events to ensure that that continuity continues to progress,” Lehne said.

There were also over a dozen volunteers in pink shirts assisting as hole judges and around the course.

Lehne also credited Cam Cartier and the entire staff at Mark’s Nine for being great hosts for the event.

“This is their fourth annual, and it’s been a hit right from day one,” Lehne explained. “They’re fantastic people, and they understand, the importance of producing a successful event.”

Lehne and Cartier have been friends since they were 10-years-old. They played sports together before Lehne’s injury and have remained lifelong friends.

“Cam came to me one day and just said, ‘why don’t we host an event, a fundraiser here for spinal cord injury?” Lehne said. “That’s kind of how that discussion started, and it’s been a huge success.”

The only year off for the tournament was 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lehne said they regrouped post-COVID to have a successful tournament in 2022

“We’re striving for $25,000 this year,” he said. “The past three years, three events, we’ve raised approximately $70,000, so we’re going to be approaching that $100,000 mark over, hopefully, this fourth year event. That’s exciting because those resources are being targeted to our members.”

The money will go back to providing such things as adaptive equipment for members. One example of adaptability is the solo-rider transport that Golf Saskatchewan offered for the tournament. The solo-rider allows people with physical disabilities to golf without leaving the cart.

“You see some of the various adaptive equipment on here today. We see the solo rider. A couple of people have scooters. They have those wheel assist all electric. But each one of those (golfers) know that solo rider, as an example, is probably $25,000. That front wheel assist that a couple of members are used to is about $12,000. It’s very pricey. They aren’t cheap, but it’s all about inclusivity.”

Lehne explained that inclusivity is a critical component of what the association does.

“People still want to experience the outdoors. They still want to experience that real-life scenario, and just because they’re in a chair doesn’t change the person. It changes your environment, so you need equipment to enhance that experience,” Lehne said.

“It takes fundraiser events like this to develop the necessary supports to provide that and facilitate those experiences.”

He called it community inclusivity which is a broad statement that covers what they seek for those they serve.

Lehne explained that he has been assisting people in the rehab ward in Saskatoon and explaining about the advantages of his truck, which he has customized for his use and how that can help people spread their wings.

“I convinced them I took it out to my truck. I got a YouTube video about my truck and my adaptive equipment needed to make it for myself,” he added.

Lehne remembered one person who was so overwhelmed he started crying just sitting in the truck.

“It was so special to be able to experience that and develop that independence,” Lehne said. “That’s what it’s about, and now they can go and do whatever they want. Their schedule is not dictated by a transit bus here or bunny bus there. It’s your schedule. You can go and do what you want at your leisure.”

Corporate sponsorship including hole sponsorship for Hole in Ones, longest drives and closest to the pin. The golf tournament had both corporate and local businesses as sponsors. Exact funds raised for the tournament were not known for deadline.