‘Sheer will and determination’: 12-year-old Manitoban with cerebral palsy skates for the first time

WINNIPEG — With help from a special Christmas gift, a boy from Brandon, Man. isn’t letting his cerebral palsy get in the way of his dream of skating.

Learning to skate is a memorable moment for many Canadian kids, but 12-year-old Zander Wallin was missing out on it.

Due to cerebral palsy, Zander has some challenges with fine motor movement.

“I fall down sometimes, but I get back up,” said Zander.

Zander learned to walk at three-and-a-half years old, and Zander’s dad, Chad Wallin, wondered about skating.

This past December, Zander’s dad asked a family friend, who is the Brandon Wheat Kings equipment manager, for help creating a pair of skates that would let Zander hit the ice.

“Equipment managers are well known for making on-the-go repairs, fixes and that sort of thing, but this was our first go and Chad and I aren’t welders by trade,” said Scott Hlady. 

Through a bit of trial and error and help from a local metal shop, the skates were complete.

The bob-style skates feature Zander’s name, favourite number and the Wheat Kings’ logo.

OPENING THE GIFT

After weeks of work, it was finally time to open the gift. 

Zander’s first words after seeing the skates were, “Oh my god, this is awesome.”

He laced them up and took his first strides later that day.

“Mom and dad had tears in their eyes for sure,” said Hlady, “And I said to my wife on the way home what we were able to do for him was so rewarding.” 

After some practice, Zander got the hang of it.

“Through sheer will and determination,” said Chad Wallin. “He kept saying, ‘I want to go skating, I want to go skating,’ and the last couple days we went out there and it was like a light switch went on.”

When asked what his favourite part is about skating, Zander said, “Having my dad by my side and if I ever do fall, he can help me back up.” 

Though living with some extra challenges, nothing is stopping Zander’s positive attitude.

“It’s okay to try, and you can do whatever you put your mind to,” he said. 

Zander’s brother, Braden Schneider, is away playing for Team Canada in the World Junior Hockey Championship.

When he returns, Zander said he’ll surprise him with his new skill. Until then, Zander will keep practising.

The Brandon Wheat Kings’ athletic therapist took a look at the skates and suggested some tweaks. He said it might be possible for Zander to skate unassisted soon with the addition of Active Ankle braces. 

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