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Wheel Walk motors toward accessibility for all

Date: 5/12/2010

May 12, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- The first annual Wheel Walk at Stanley Park in 2009 wasn't the huge success organizers had hoped for; however, co-chairs Karen Moriarty and Holly Santos won't give up their fight for accessibility.

They're lobbying for their children -- whom they've watched struggle with illness-induced physical limitations -- and other people with disabilities to enjoy the park's features many able-bodied people take for granted. The second annual Wheel Walk on May 15 will unite their children with those in wheelchairs and strollers, motorcycles and bicycles.

"I understand what it's like to have to get around with wheels. It's really nice to watch people access different parts of the park that they wouldn't have been able to in the past," Santos said of last year's walk. "A lot of people in wheels never get out in order to see that kind of beauty. I'd say we're very happy to bring the awareness to the important issue of accessibility."

Santos is a mother of two, including a 13-year-old boy with autism. Moriarty has one teenage daughter with cerebral hypoplasia, which prevents her from living a life without wheels as well.

"We'll never make the park 100 percent [accessible] but we want to try to make it as accessible as possible," Bob McKean, director of Stanley Park, said.

He added that the money raised from the Wheel Walk would be put toward accessibility efforts throughout the park.

McKean noted that park personnel have reached out to the Center for Human Development (CHD) and Shriners in order to make the second annual walk an even bigger success.

Nancy Bazanchuk of the Disability Resource Program at CHD explained she would bring wheelchairs to the walk for the able-bodied to try out.

"It is not to teach people how it feels to be disabled but to let people have the opportunity to view the park in a different way," she added.

The Wheel Walk will take place rain or shine on May 15 from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration for walkers and riders will begin at 9 a.m. Registration is free; however, donations are encouraged.

Park goers may start their day at the pavilion with special activities, including the "Decorate Your Wheelchair Contest."

For more information or to obtain pledge sheets, visit