New tables let wheelchair-users belly-up

Rick Marion, from left, Leroy Wilcox, Ed Harris and Monte High sit around one of the two new handicap-accessible picnic table at Lincoln Park.

The thing to know about Western Colorado Wheelers is that, OK, yes, technically it’s a support group, established for people with spinal cord and similar injuries.

Facilitator Mary Ellen Ireland brings a topic to each monthly meeting, and group members share resources and tips and advice with each other.

So, the support is definitely there, but as for any group-huggy touchy-feeliness, “that’s not really who we are,” said member Monte High.

Instead, this is a group that enjoys shooting the breeze and laughing at a barbecue, a party, a picnic.

The tables, then, were perfect: two handicap-accessible picnic tables under the pavilion at Lincoln Park, established there in honor of group founder Scott Brown.

Members of the Western Colorado Wheelers dedicated the two tables Tuesday afternoon, placed there with a donation from Scott’s brother after Scott’s death two years ago and with help from Grand Junction Parks and Recreation.

“(These tables) are important because they allow someone in a wheelchair to get up to the table and sit with everybody,” said Jane Newton, a four-year member of the Wheelers.

It seems like a small thing, maybe a thing that people who don’t use wheelchairs forget to think about, but being able to pull up to the table affects the whole tenor of the experience.

“Scott really campaigned for accessibility,” High said, adding that Brown even traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act before it became law.

Brown also advocated for people who use wheelchairs not to hide in the shadows, but to be out and active in the community.

That’s why the picnic tables at Lincoln Park are so ideal. Prior to his death, he often went to the park from his nearby home, and he loved to go out and do things with his friends from the Wheelers.

Today’s Wheelers — there are about 10 who regularly attend the monthly meetings, High said, “and we’d love to invite more” — continue in that spirit.

Currently, the group is working on a guide book about handicap accessibility on area trails.

And they’re having fun, getting together for parties and picnics and barbecues.

Support group? Sure. But pass the baked beans.

Western Colorado Wheelers meet at 12:15 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month in the East-West Conference Room at St. Mary’s Advanced Medicine Pavilion.  The next one is June 25. The meetings are free and a light lunch is served.

For more information, call Monte High at 245-5267.


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