Playing Beyond Physical Limits

Leo Yates is 29 years old and was born with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy affecting all four of his limbs. His muscles have a life of their own. Leo is challenged every day with coordinating swallowing, talking, breathing and thinking simultaneously.

When Leo was 8 years old, he received a power wheelchair through the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) Wheelchair Services. Being a curious kid with a sense of adventure, he found himself sometimes traveling too far from home while growing up in Gimli, Manitoba. Norma, Leo’s personal care house manager adds, “He used to get in trouble at times as he was very mobile and would drive around exploring until his power wheelchair ran out of batteries and then someone would find him on the side of the road, load him and his wheelchair up and bring him back home.”

Leo’s mom and brother encouraged him to get involved with the SMD Recreation and Leisure Program.  He has played Power Wheelchair Hockey for over a decade and recently got into Power Wheelchair Soccer. When asked what his favourite parts of playing sports are he responded by using his iPad to type out, “being able to be a team player.”

SMD’s Power Wheelchair Hockey league consists of four teams playing 17 games each season plus playoffs and a windup at the end of the year. Leo has also traveled with the team and played in tournaments around North America including; Toronto, Minneapolis, Ottawa, Calgary and London.

However, due to recent government regulation changes around support staff that travel with individuals, two staff are now required because one staff is not allowed to work 24 hours in a day which will double the cost for Leo in future trips.

Transportation, especially during the winter months is also difficult as Norma stated, “Leo relies on Winnipeg Plus for getting to and from games and as far as going anywhere, his wheelchair gets stuck in the snow sometimes. There’s at most only ½ inch between the wheel and the fender. He has one support staff at a time and sometimes they can’t help him get unstuck from the snow so they have had to call the fire department more than once.”

Leo appreciates all the support from the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities and those that help him play hockey and soccer. One of his goals is to raise awareness so that more people can come out to experience it. Thanks to SMD, Leo has ambitions to try rugby and other Recreation and Leisure programs down the road. To help support Leo and other adults, youth and children with disabilities and their families, please and make a difference today!