Young Shuswap wheelchair athlete spreads message of hope

Lily Brook wants to help bring wheelchair boxing into international spotlight

A Shuswap teenager who uses a wheelchair to participate in several different sports has seen success in both competition and spreading the message of hope to her peers.

Lily Brook, 15, has been using a wheelchair to play basketball, box and ski since September 2019.

While she is still able to walk, a joint disorder she was diagnosed with three years ago affects both her ankles and has left her feet with limited movement.

Not letting this slow her down, Brook travelled from Salmon Arm to the 2020 BC Games held in Fort St. John, Feb. 20-23, with the Zone 2 Thompson/Okanagan Wheelchair basketball team placing sixth in the province.

Read more: Salmon Arm’s Bulldogs Boxing Club gets new name, diversifies class offerings

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Following the team’s performance at the Winter Games, the provincial wheelchair basketball coach approached Lily’s mother, Beverly, and said her daughter was put on a list to possibly be put on the provincial team.

“I’m excited but nervous at the same time,” Lily said, reliving that news.

Lily Brooks takes a shot during a wheelchair basketball game. (Contributed)

Sights are also set high for sit-down skiing with Lily’s ski coach hoping to start training for nationals in two years.

Things didn’t always seem so bright for Lily, knowing her diagnosis would mean she would no longer be able to play the sports she grew up with was difficult.

Luckily, Lily’s boxing instructor, Peggy Maerz at Salmon Arm’s Bulldogs Boxing, introduced her to the world of wheelchair sports last summer.

“Her goals and my goals are one and the same, we’d like to see wheelchair boxing in the Paralympics and more of a mainstream sport,” Maerz said.

“I see her being an absolute poster-child for it.”

Since Lily started using a wheelchair, Maerz has seen her attitude improve dramatically.

“That’s what coaching is all about, that’s the gift, that’s the reward for me is watching her adapt and overcome, watching her grow, watching her confidence go through the roof,” Maerz said.

Lily Brook readies herself for a round in the ring at Salmon Arm’s Bulldogs Boxing gym. (Contributed)

To her knowledge, Maerz says Lily is the only wheelchair boxer in Salmon Arm, so finding sparring partners can prove difficult.

Maerz has overcome this challenge by having Lily’s sparring partners sit on exercise balls as the gym cannot afford another wheelchair.

Read more: Fighting for charity with local boxing club

Read more: Wheelchair boxing demo prompts jab at national movement

Maerz hopes Lily will find someone to face off against for the annual Hit 2 Fit showcase on Saturday, May 2, at the Salmon Arm Recreation Centre.

The confidence imbued in Lily has also given way to her foray into public speaking at local schools.

In recent months, she has spoken at North Canoe and Hillcrest Elementary with plans to speak at Ranchero and M.V. Beattie.

Lily offers students words of encouragement and inspiration for those who may face similar experiences.

“Even if it may seem hard at first, I know for me it was very difficult. I found things that helped me.” Lily said.

“Even if something happens, whether it’s a disability or just something hard that you’re going through, you’ll be okay.”


@CameronJHT
Cameron.thomson@saobserver.net

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