A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending some time with Kris Stanbra. She had just been awarded the prestigious Courage to Come Back Award. I was truly impressed by her story and thought I would share it with my constituents in the B.C. Southern Interior
Kris grew up as a fun-loving, athletic child with a competitive drive that continues to this day. As a kid, she excelled in volleyball and grass hockey, achieving athletic awards in both sports. In adulthood, she played hockey and fastball, and was a popular player in the community.
In 1978, Kris married the love of her life, Larry, and they began to build their life together. The fairy tale was dramatically altered when Kris and Larry were run off the road in a car accident, and Kris was thrown over 40 feet from her vehicle. The impact changed everything in her life – except her will to succeed.
After emergency spinal surgery, Kris was told she would never walk again but she faced the future head on, seeking positive options with a true fighting spirit! And then she discovered she could move one toe!
After seven weeks on her Stryker frame at the Spinal Cord Unit of Shaughnessy Hospital, Kris was transferred to G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre where she spent another 7 weeks trying to learn how to walk again. After returning home to Castlegar, Kris proceeded diligently. First, she became less dependent on her wheelchair; eventually she began to walk with a cane. She even became a mother twice, and her two sons, Clarke and Cole, are her greatest joys, along with her puppy, Bella.
She became a powerful advocate for people with disabilities, sitting on three Provincial Boards and was appointed the Provincial Co-Coordinator of Rick Hansen’s National Access Awareness Week Organization for three years.
Kris helped coordinate the Rick Hansen visit to Castlegar (1986 – 1987). She visited every school in Castlegar giving talks to children about Rick’s tour. In a short period of time, over $22,000.00 was raised in our small community and Kris proudly presented Rick with a cheque for his Man in Motion World Tour.
In 1987, Kris become the Vice-Chair of the effective Abilities Awareness advisory Committee where she helped to advise the City of Castlegar on numerous disability issues such as curb cuts, accessible recreation and inclusion.
From 1988 – 1991 she was a Red Cross Volunteer representing the Castlegar Recreation Department for people with disabilities.
As initiatior and corrdinator of the Interior Access Network (IAN) (1191-1995), Kris frequently went out to Kootenay region communities to bring awareness of disability issues to them. Significant progress was made on access to services, housing and transportation. Kris aslo represented IAN at the World Symposium on Disability issues at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, where she met people from all over the world and soon realized lack of accessibility was a common theme in all countries.
While on the Minister’s Advisory Committee for Vocational Rehabilitation as a Board Member (1992-1993), Kris gained valuable access to the Minister in order to further her mission of bringing awareness and finding solutions for disability issues.
Today, Kris still advocates for people with disabilities and works with community leaders and politicians to help improve accessibility in her hometown of Castlegar.
Over the last 10 years, Kris’s family and friends have noticed that she is fast losing mobility, partly from arthritis. However, when her husband had a heart attack in 2005, she was steadfast in nurturing him back to good health. Kris has required a scooter for many years now to access the outdoors, but it has made her life much easier, allowing her to participate in many more opportunities such as walks on the Millennium Walkway in Castlegar or camping with her husband and kids OR even entering the Terry Fox Run.
Kris and her family had a worrisome time last year as she went through three surgeries and radiation for breast cancer. Fortunately, so far, the cancer has been successfully treated. She tries to say she is now “really retired,” but those of us that know Kris are aware that she continues, up to this day, to serve on boards and to be on the lookout for one more person with disabilities to help.
Having overcome serious injuries and health challenges including breast cancer, Kris has proven herself to be an uncontestable champion with an unstoppable zest for life.
Thank you Kris, for all you have done. Your courage is an inspiration to all of us.