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Neels accepts ‘Life Without Limits’ challenge

Becca Neels will climb out of her wheelchair on Sept. 15 to walk five kilometres in the Life With Limits Challenge in support of the cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta.

Becca Neels will climb out of her wheelchair on Sept. 15 to walk five kilometres in the Life With Limits Challenge in support of the cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta.

Becca Neels admits its a stretch to think she can climb out of her wheelchair and walk five kilometres.
But the young Fort Macleod woman will attempt to do just that next month in the Life Without Limits Challenge organized by the Cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta.
“I’m not giving up easy,” Neels vowed during an interview last week.
Neels was diagnosed at the age of 14 months with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking.
There are several different types of cerebral palsy, which is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Most of these problems occur as the baby grows in the womb, but they can happen at any time during the first two years of life, while the baby’s brain is still developing.
In some people with cerebral palsy, parts of the brain are injured due to low levels of oxygen in the area. It is not known why this occurs.
The 20-year-old Neels graduated in 2014 and has worked at Hand-In-Hand Out of School Care for 2 1/2 years.
Neels has long been an advocate for people with cerebral palsy and others with different abilities, dating back to her school days when she spoke to students and school staff.
More than three years ago, at the urging of F.P. Walshe school teacher Francine Doyle, Neels started writing her blog, “I have cerebral palsy but it doesn’t have me.”
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Neels explained. “Not just necessarily my life having to do with CP, but just life in general and the lessons I learn on a day-to-day basis, the importance of laughing at yourself, and learning to accept that making mistakes is okay.”
An avid skier, Neels is in charge of communications for the board that runs the ski program of which she is a member, which has provided more opportunity for advocacy.
“I absolutely love that role,” Neels said. “It’s really, really close to my heart. Skiing gave me freedom that I don’t have outside of it. It literally feels like I’m flying.”
Taking on the communications role allowed Neels to share her passion and encourage other people to join the program so they could experience that same feeling of freedom.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Neels now plans to take part in the Life Without Limits Challenge, which she learned about from the Cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta.
The Life Without Limits Challenge encourages people to walk, run or wheel five kilometres at Fish Creek Park in Calgary on Saturday, Sept. 15.
“I thought about it for a few days, but then I thought, Becca you can climb mountains and you can hike. You can do this.”
Neels registered, started a fund-raising page and slowly had people joining her effort.
Neels will have a team of 11 family members, co-workers and friends supporting her as part of Team Ninja Warriors.
Although it would be acceptable for Neels to use her wheelchair to complete the five-kilometre course, she will instead use her crutches to walk the route.
A team member will push Neels’ wheelchair behind her in case she tires.
Neels can walk five to 10 minutes at a stretch before she tires and needs to take a break.
“I’m not certain I can walk the whole five kilometres and I’m not shooting for that,” Neels said. “I want to do this because CP is a very widespread disability and a lot of people don’t have as much mobility as I have.”
“I feel fortunate to have that much mobility, so why not use it to make a difference in the lives of somebody else.”
Neels recently completed a four-kilometre hike in Waterton Lakes National Park in about eight hours. Neels’ upper body is strong after years of using a wheelchair, but walking puts a strain on her lower body.
“I know that the day I do this I’m going to hurt, but I don’t care,” Neels said with a laugh. “My whole life has been like that. I will set a goal and I will do anything that I need to do to go and achieve it.”
Her training for the Life Without Limits Challenge consists of trips to the gym two or three times a week to do cardio and lift weights, and hiking on weekends.
The Cerebral Palsy Association has a fund-raising goal of $75,000, with $6,170 pledged so far.
Neels set a personal goal of raising $500 and her team’s goal was to raise $1,000. So far, in just a week of fund-raising, Neels’ personal total has hit $2,000.
Neels could use her wheelchair for the Life Without Limits Challenge, and was urged by some people to take that option.
She flatly refused.
“If I went in my chair, it wouldn’t be a challenge,” Neels said. “People with different abilities aren’t fragile. People with different abilities have goals and dreams just like everyone else.”
Visit www.lifewithoutlimits.ca and search “Becca Neels” to make a donation to Ninja Warriors.
For her part, Neels doesn’t think she’s doing anything out of the ordinary.
“It’s not about me,” Neels said. “It’s about giving back and helping other people in the way that I’m able.”

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