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Students rally to lower barriers for classmate



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Drew Canada zooms past defenders on the way to the goal. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
May 18, 2011 - Senior Chris Canada smiled and shook hands with his brother Drew before stepping off Clarkston High School's gymnasium floor.

Both had just competed against each other in the Wheelchair Hockey Championship round on May 5, and both teams came to a draw after winning one game each.

It was just one fundraising event during the high school's charity week, beginning May 2.

The money raised is for handicap-accessible doors at the entrance of the academic hallway near the front entrance at the high school.

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The doors cost $8,000 and the students raised $700 during the hockey games.

"It was so exciting," said parent, Penny Canada. "I didn't know what to expect. Someone said they had three teams. Then when we got there, they had eight teams. It was overwhelming. The whole charity week the students do is great. It is heartwarming to see so many kids come out. Everyone who played had a great time."

Penny noticed in the fall for the first time at the high school how many doors there were in the school when she came with Drew and his wheelchair for his sophomore year.

He attended Clarkston Community Schools since he was in preschool, and all the other schools were barrier free, she said.

Penny approached Principal Gary Kaul and Wes Goodman, director of buildings and grounds, and discussed the doors with them.

"They said the topic had been visited by other parents in the past and they were compliant ADA (Standards for Accessible Design)," she said. "They were really receptive on taking another look at it. Mr. Kaul came back with a couple of quotes to make academic hallways more accessible."

The best choice was magnetized doors that would tie into the school's electrical system and hardwired to existing infrastructure. The cost for one set of doors is $8,000.

The PTSA donated $500 and other ideas are being looked at to raise the money.

Ideas to raise money for the doors include applying for the Pepsi Refresh Challenge, an online grant program for projects that benefit the community.

"The whole Clarkston community has always been wonderful for the special needs kids," said Penny. "It has been awesome to see the community, the teachers, the students and the parents come out. It was awesome."

It was also a joy watch Drew play hockey on the Clarkston High School hardwood floor since he normally practices in at another school, she said.

"He has always want to play in Clarkston's gym," said Penny. "It was a huge thrill to do it here at his own school. The look on Drew's face when he rolled into the gym to see the hockey court set up was priceless."

He also knew a few things about his opponent, his brother, because they have played each other before in a wheelchair hockey event in North Carolina, and they also play street hockey.

Drew was careful to watch his brother, since Chris likes to turn Drew's chair off during gameplay.

"Drew said he did it too on Thursday night," said Penny.

Wheelchairs were donated by University of Michigan.

A Wheelchair Hockey tournament is planned for next year and ideas have already sparked on what else they could do during the event, including a raffle.

Donations for the accessible doors can be sent to Clarkston Community Schools, with "Door Donation" in the memo line. They can be sent or dropped off to Clarkston High School, 6093 Flemings Lake Road, Clarkston 48346, care of Brenda Dudlets.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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