Raising awareness, changing attitudes and removing barriers for people with disabilities in the built environment

AB Ambassadors

I cannot thank you enough for coming in and telling your incredible story. My kids were ecstatic about your visit. They talked about you all day today and made connections to you from an article they read. You opened the eyes of both my students and myself. You are truly an amazing person and I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to hear your inspiring story. I want you to know that your school visits make a difference in children's lives. You have given them a story and life lesson about strength and determination that they will never forget.

Leanne Bemister, Teacher
Marlborough Elementary School

Our AB Ambassadors are involved in our communities representing the Rick Hansen Foundation Ambassador Program. They are delivering keynote presentations to schools all across Edmonton and Calgary.

Allan Stafford

Before his injury, Alan Stafford was an athlete, husband and father of two active teens. He successfully ran his own company representing CCM and Reebok hockey.

One January morning, driving in snowy conditions, Alan’s vehicle skidded off the road and rolled numerous times.  Alan does not remember a thing about the accident, just a vague memory of being flown in an air ambulance to the University Hospital in Edmonton.

From the accident, Alan had a broken sternum, broken ribs, collapsed lungs and a broken back. Loose bone fragments had damaged his spinal cord and Alan was diagnosed as an incomplete paraplegic as he had some sensation to touch.  The doctors told him there was a 99 percent chance he would never walk again.

After the realization of his diagnosis set in, Alan never gave up and was determined to WALK again one day.  Through his will, determination, strength, dedication, hard work and power of the mind, Alan was able to accomplish this and he a sense of gratefulness for every step

Alan is back running his company just as he was before his injury.  Of course there are many things he doesn't do that he did before, but he does not focus on them. He now enjoys coaching his children's hockey team again, driving his boat, going camping and golf.  

Bean Gill

Bean was excited about her future and was developing a successful make up career and in parallel was the supervisor of an x-ray clinic.

Bean was on a Las Vegas vacation in 2012 with her girlfriends when she woke up experiencing an extreme pain in her lower back that caused one of her legs to lose function and feeling and minutes after she lost the use of her other leg rendering her paralyzed from the waist down and never recovered physically from a virus that attacked her system.

Bean felt very defeated after experiencing this tragic paralysis and felt a burden on her family. All of her hopes and dreams were completely altered and she vowed to walk again no matter what it took to accomplish this goal.

As she went through rehab her disposition changed and Bean has looked at life with a much more positive approach and wants to share her story of “what is possible” in order to change attitudinal barriers that hold people back that live with disabilities. 

Brian Martin

Bryce Clarke

Bryce Clarke had a great life prior to his accident. He came from a good family and had many good friends. He had just joined the Edmonton Police Service, was happily married and was about to start trying to have a family of his own.

In the summer of 2001, Bryce stood up on the railing of his deck and dove into the swimming pool below. All he heard was a crack and then couldn’t move. Bryce was face down in the water and could hear his buddies laughing, they thought he was joking. He became unconscious and eventually was pulled out of the water by his friends. Bryce wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse so they performed AR & CPR until STARS landed and took him to the hospital. He woke up several days later and was told he would never walk again, work again, or be able to live on his acreage.

Bryce spent several months in the hospital fighting for his life. He was on a respirator and desperately wanted off of it. He had to face reality that he was now a quadriplegic and had no idea what he was going to do. Bryce was told there were no quadriplegic police officers anywhere and wouldn’t be able to work again. They also said he wouldn’t be able to live on his acreage of land anymore because of the lack of resources and services. Essentially they said that he would have to depend on others for the rest of his life and not amount to anything.

Bryce returned to work full time in February 2009 and became one of only 2 quadriplegic police officers in Canada. He is now an acting Detective in Homicide. He’s still searching for the right woman and hopes to become a proud husband and father!

Chris Schamber

Chris Schamber was your average young adult in the late 80s who had a lot of dreams and aspirations, to become gainfully employed and married when the time was right and make the best out of life.

One hot summer day when Chris was 19, he jumped of the local train bridge with a friend to swim in the river below and cool off. Chris ended up hitting the bottom of the river and his body went numb. As he was floating down the river crying out for help, a friend was able to grab him just as Chris was about to pass out.

Chris spent 19 months in the hospital recovering from his Spinal Cord Injury. Chris now had to adjust to a new life of being mobility impaired and dependent on other people for help.

A decade after his injury, Chris went back to college for upgrading and then went on to study Engineering Drafting & Design. In College, Chris learned that he was able to keep up to other people academically, which gave him a feeling of self-worth and he gained self-esteem.

In 2006, Chris started a business called Quad Design & Barrier Free Consulting and adapted the moto: Working for a Barrier Free Tomorrow. Chris volunteers on several Boards, is the Chapter Coordinator for the Tetra Society of North America and is an Ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Kuen Tang

Kuen was driving home from Victoria, BC on a nice morning after a short vacation.  Her car veered off the highway, ending up launching over a cliff.  She was thrown out of the car about 40 meters after it hit the first part of the ditch.

After spending a week in a coma, Kuen woke up to a Spinal Cord Injury and after some soul searching, accepted that her body is no longer the same and held on to the slight possibility that her dreams might still come true.

Kuen earned her Bachelor of Education  from the University of Alberta, became the first quadriplegic in the world to letter comic books for DC comics, first quadriplegic to do FES rowing in North America, first quadriplegic to hike up ha Ling mountain… and many more. Kuen is a firm believer that there is nothing that is impossible, only “I’m possible” if she want it.

Marilyn Erho

Philip Bobawsky

Phillip Bobawsky was a retired father of three sons who has had the pleasure of calling Calgary home for the last 21 years.

Due to long term diabetes, Phillip was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and end stage kidney disease which resulted in vision loss.

One of Phillips sons was a match to be a living donor and was able to donate one of his kidneys. Phillip also received a guide dog which helped restored his self confidence, giving Phillip back his independence through mobility.

Phillip is now a passionate and dedicated volunteer for the Canadian Diabetes Association, Kidney Foundation of Canada, Rick Hansen Foundation, CNIB and the City of Calgary in a variety of roles including an Ambassador, committee chairperson, council board member and fundraiser. His mission is to have “a barrier-free and fully-Inclusive world be ubiquitous".

Ryan Yeadon

Ryan was born in a small ranching and logging community where he enjoyed time in the mountains camping, exploring, and being part of nature.  After graduating, he spent many summers working as a forest fire fighter until the Oil Patch brought him to Alberta.  He felt that he had no real goals or direction other than to enjoy life and create memories.

 Riding mountain bikes was a passion for Ryan and on a trail near his home that he had ridden MANY times, he lost control and was launched over the handlebars travelling around 70 kilometres an hour, shattering his spine.

 Following his injury Calgary became a better location for Ryan due to its flat terrain, great public Transit, and variety of hospitals and doctors.  After living through that experience his family became more important to him.

 Currently Ryan is working for the City of Calgary and pursuing future employment with Westjet.  He became more involved with volunteering and a world of other doors opened for him.   During the summer months he is often found at the reservoir taking special needs groups sailing or riding his handcycle on the bike paths throughout the city.  Ryan is huge hockey fan which lead him to discover the sport of sledge hockey and he is currently the goalie for the Calgary Scorpions.

Shauna Durston

Shauna Paisley Cooper

In 2008 Shauna Paisley Cooper fell off her mountain bike and broke her neck, leaving her with complete C6 quadriplegia.

Shauna spent 5 1/2months in hospital. Coming home to a new home (not by choice) was devastating. Shauna had to figure out how to be a Mom, wife, and friend paralyzed, from a wheelchair. Shauna felt that her dreams were shattered and suffered from depression for a year and a half after returning home to her family.

After beating her depression, Shauna has not looked back. Her girls are now 6 years old. Shauna is a stay at home soccer Mom, driving the girls to and from school, volunteering in the school classrooms, and coaching the girls soccer teams. Shauna speaks to newly injured SCI patients at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. Shauna enjoys hand cycling and camping with her family.

Sierra Roth

Before her injury, Sierra Roth was a very active high school student living the best of both worlds in two sports she loved to compete in, soccer and motocross. She had big dreams that weren’t far from reach and a loving family to support her.

As Sierra she was racing in preparation to compete at the Western Canadian Women Motocross Nationals, the bike cartwheeled and hit her in the back, resulting in a Spinal Cord Injury. The one sport she grew up in and loved set her up onto a new road of never ending obstacles in a wheelchair. 

In the hospital, Sierra soon found out what it was like to have to relearn how to live life in a wheelchair. It wasn’t training for a competition that was going to now to be her struggle but rather simple tasks, like dressing herself in the morning.

Sierra now faces everyday with a smile on her face to let the world know she is grateful to be here involved in the same sports as she had before along with new para-sports. She has just graduated from high school and with the support of her friends and family; she looks forward to what the future has to offer.

Read more about Sierra's inspirational story here.

Stephanie Carvalho

At the age of four, Stephanie’s family began to notice a shift in her activity until one day she told her mom that she could no longer see.  Seemingly overnight, she had lost her vision.

Stephanie was diagnosed with a genetic disease, Chronic Optic Nerve Atrophy. Facing this radical and sudden change, family and friends worried for Stephanie’s future and the limitations she would now face. What would her life be without sight?

Through a positive attitude, an iron will and never accepting limitations, Stephanie lives life by taking on any obstacle. Living with vision loss doesn’t change the choices she makes or impacts her goals. She is an Employment Equity Assistant working in Human Resources at the University of Alberta and constantly takes courses to improve herself.  She is an active member of her church and most important to her are her family and friends.

Susan Littlechilds