Saskatoon

Saskatoon program helps adults with brain injuries socialize through sports

When Kevin Clarke was a child, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. As a result, it was difficult for him to get involved with all the activities he wanted to pursue growing up. That's where a program at the Saskatoon YMCA called Sports For Life comes in.

Sports for Life has been meeting at the Saskatoon YMCA for nearly 10 years

Kevin Clarke, left, and March Lich are two of the people involved in the creation of Sports for Life, a program that helps adults with an acquired brain injury get active and interact with others. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Kevin Clarke has been coming to the Saskatoon YMCA for almost a decade — drawn initially to the community centre by a program meant to help adults who, like him, have an acquired brain injury.

"When I was, I believe, about two years old I snored like a 40-year-old, so my mom brought me in to have my adenoids clipped," said Clarke, now 37.

When doctors did a CAT scan, they noticed that a brain tumour had eaten nearly three-quarters of his brain. 

Clarke said growing up, he wanted to get involved with group sports — but his cognitive abilities kept him from doing so.

"I wasn't doing anything. I was basically sitting around the house collecting dust," he said, adding that there weren't any programs available to help people in his situation. 

"So I was just trying to exercise as often as I could, but it's difficult when you don't have anything to do or anyone to do it with." 

Now, a program called Sports For Life brings Clark to the Saskatoon YMCA — which is now celebrating its 50th anniversary in its current location — at least once a week. 

The program, run by Radius Community Centre, is meant to help people from the ages of 18 to 30 with an acquired brain injury get active and interact with others.

No programs available

Clarke was introduced to Radius, a non-profit that helps families of youth with acquired brain injuries connect with support workers, when he was 14 years old. That's where he met Mark Lich, who works with Radius.

"I didn't have a lot of friends and I find it difficult to get into new situations," Clarke said. "[Mark] helped to introduce me to such activities that I'd be interested in."

Lich said it was because of Clarke that the Sports for Life program was born. Clarke helped him recognize a need in the city that wasn't fulfilled.

He said it wasn't just people like Clarke who were finding life after a brain injury difficult.

"For some people it's a new injury and they're coming from, you know, 18 to 20 years of living life and being a part of what they want to do, and then they get in a vehicle collision or maybe suffer a stroke," Lich said.

"They have to find out … again where their strengths are."

It was one of the happiest days of my life.- Sports for Life participant Kevin Clarke

Lich said the program helps walk people through their situation, providing education, understanding and encouragement along the way. 

He said Radius partnered with YMCA Saskatoon about seven years ago, allowing Radius to use the building's gym every Monday.

Over those years, Clarke said he has developed a lot of great memories there. The most memorable was the day he announced to others on the YMCA gym floor that he was going to get married.

"It was one of the happiest days of my life because I had just proposed earlier that day and came to Sports for Life to let everybody know."

More information about the Sports for Life program can be found at the Radius website.

About the Author

Victoria Dinh

CBC Saskatoon reporter

Victoria Dinh is a journalist with CBC Saskatoon. She is also a co-host, writer and producer of the CBC investigative podcast, The Pit. Get in touch with Victoria by emailing victoria.dinh@cbc.ca

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