Sledders take to the trails for Easter Seals

Austin Weaver is 14 years old. And he understands that he’s the future of the Easter Seals Snowarama event.

"The older people can only do it for so long," Weaver said after this year’s event, held in Coniston.

Snowarama, a snowmobiling event, supports the Easter Seals, an organization that raises money for kids with disabilities.

"(My grandfather) is a longtime volunteer. I was just kind of born into it. Someone has got to do it. Someone has got to volunteer."

Along with participating in the snowmobile run, which stretched from Coniston to Estaire and back, Weaver also helped stake out the lakes and get the trails ready.

"It’s just fun for a good cause," the teen said, adding that he has been snowmobiling since he was about four. "It raises money for … children who aren’t as lucky as I am."

Weaver was one of 79 participants in Sudbury’s Snowarama, a jump from last year’s 53 participants.

The event is held in 20 communities across Ontario and involves several Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. This year, the event raised about $24,000, almost enough for an electric wheelchair.

Funds raised through Snowarama go toward buying equipment for children with disabilities and sending kids to summer camps.

Roxanne Kneer, of the Easter Seals, has been to an Easter Seal camp before.

"It’s $2,000 per child for 10 days for camp. (Campers) require around the clock care. Counsellors sleep outside (in the) halls, because kids can’t turn themselves over in bed. If you don’t turn, your body would start to hurt," she said. But Kneer’s favourite part of camp was watching the kids.

"(Camp) allows them to be like all the other kids," she said. "(I liked) seeing the kids smiling … like all children should."

Kneer isn’t surprised that Snowarama is growing in popularity.

"It’s our largest fundraiser across the province and in the Sudbury area. People enjoy snowmobiling and they want to kelp kids. It’s a win win for everybody," she said.

William Gillespie agrees. As part of the Walden snowmobile club, he’s been volunteering and participating for six years.

"It’s for disabled kids. When collecting money or prizes, people are very generous because of the cause. It combines things you love to do and you can give back to the community," he said.

After the snowmobiling event, Snowarama organizers give out prizes for youngest snowmobiler, which went to a two-year-old and five-year-o ld, oldest snowmobiler, which went to an 80-year-old.

Douglas Reynolds, along with his daughter, Kelly, Reynolds and son-in-law, John Goldsmith, won the prize for most raised. With the help of business contacts and a website, the three raised just over $8,000.

"It’s handicapped children. If you don’t help them, who’s going to?" he said.a
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