Sam Wade and Luke Galvani are prepared to go the distance to ensure B.C. children and teenagers with disabilities are able to attend life-changing summer camps.
The Richmond and West Vancouver residents, respectively, have signed up to complete three B.C. Money Mart Easter Seals 24-Hour Relays this month, beginning with last weekend's Vancouver Island event in Victoria.
Under the moniker Easter Seals On Wheels, the duo hope to raise $30,000 in total, $10,000 at each relay, enough to send 15 children to an Easter Seals Camp this summer.
The friends met through their involvement in Easter Seals Camps - Galvani was a camper for five years and is now an annual volunteer, and Wade has worked at the camps, both as a counsellor and outdoor pursuit programmer.
Wade founded Easter Seals on Wheels in 2010. Its first initiative saw Wade and friend Brian Tong cycle from Vancouver to Tijuana, Mexico in spring 2011 and raise $8,000 for Easter Seals Camps.
"I really fluked out on the chance of being able to work at Easter Seals," says Wade, 22, adding the opportunity was the result of a UVic co-op.
"It was an opportunity that came my way at the right time in my life. It was an absolutely life-changing experience, which I suggest everyone have at one point...
"Through the inspiration that I gathered from working there, I realized that I wanted to do something that gave back to the camps. If I wasn't working there, at least do something that I could be proud of and see it keep going."
According to their website, the B.C. Lions Society for Children with Disabilities, also known as Easter Seals B.C., supports children with special needs throughout the province through a variety of initiatives, including funding three Easter Seal Camps - Camp Shawnigan on Vancouver Island, Camp Winfield in the Okanagan and Camp Squamish, north of Vancouver.
Each year, approximately 850 children with physical and/or mental disabilities attend one of the overnight camps, which take into account their specific needs, and are designed to provide an opportunity for campers to gain new skills, friendships, confidence and independence.
Camp sessions are a week in duration and are offered at no cost to families.
"It was great just being in a really supportive environment where we focused on our abilities and what we can do," says Galvani, 19. "I think that helped me accept my situation and try and do something positive with it."
Galvani, who has duchenne muscular dystrophy and uses an electric wheelchair, leads an incredibly active life. For example, last fall he competed in Paris as a member of Canada's national power soccer team at the FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale De Powerchair Football Association (FIPFA) World Cup.
The Easter Seals 24-Hour Relay, a fundraising event that challenges groups to run or walk relay-style for 24 hours, is offered at three locations annually in B.C. - Victoria, Kelowna and Vancouver - and supports Easter Seals Camps.
Next weekend, June 9 and 10, the pair plan to tackle the Okanagan relay at the Kelowna Apple Bowl and finally, the Vancouver relay, June 16-17 at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium.
Galvani was a big supporter of Wade's ride last year and expressed an interest in doing something similar to support the cause. In addition to his personal experience as a camper, his younger brothers, John and Vincent, who share his diagnosis, are also annual attendees.
"You have to focus on your abilities. I could say that there's not a lot I could do and I could sit here and do nothing, but I'm taking something as basic as driving my wheelchair and I'm using it to make a difference.
You have to see that there's a need and do whatever you can to make that happen."
The pair encourage community members to come out and join them at each of the relays.
"We're ready to go as hard as we can and I think the harder we work and the more seriously we take it, the more kids are going to go to camp and have a great time," says Galvani.
To support Galvani and Wade's Easter Seals on Wheels campaign, visit www. eastersealsonwheels.ca.