SINGAPORE, 10 September 2016 – More than 1,000 participants, with and without disabilities, turned up at the inaugural SPD Ability Fun Walk held at the Punggol Waterway Park this morning as a show of support for people with special needs.
Flagged off by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Education, as well as Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris – Punggol GRC, the walkathon raised close to $200,000 for SPD that will be channeled to fund programmes that help persons with disabilities to be independent and self-reliant. As Dr Puthucheary joined the other participants in the walk, he also cheered and encouraged 50 trainees with disabilities from the SPD Sheltered Workshop who also took part in the walk.
The walk was especially meaningful for one of the trainees, 55-year-old Mr Lim Lian Hua. Despite having to wake up early to get ready as he lives at the opposite end of the island in Jurong, Lian Hua was still all smiles as he trudged along the route using a walking frame, at times assisted by a fellow participant or volunteer.
A road traffic accident in 2011 had resulted in a spinal cord injury that left Lian Hua in a vegetative state for six months. Even when he was able to get out of bed, Lian Hua spent another nine months learning to walk again. Till today he still does not experience any sensation on the right side of his body and cannot walk long distances.
Despite his mobility impairment, Lian Hua had looked forward to taking part in the walk. He worked closely with his therapists to strengthen and build endurance. “I usually use my wheelchair if I have to go very far but last few weeks, I practised walking at the SPD rehab centre so that I can walk with everyone else,” he said.
Besides raising funds for SPD, the walk also served to promote inclusion by providing an opportunity for the general public and people with special needs to walk together as a united community.
Long-time volunteer, Ms Frances Chua, who conducts music therapy at the SPD Day Activity Centre (DAC), came to support the event with her family. “It is wonderful to see the community coming together to raise awareness for the disability cause,” she said. Frances also trained the nine-member DAC choir which performed for the participants after the walk.
The vibrant post-walk carnival that awaited participants at the finishing line not only served up all-time favourites such as cotton candy, muffins and kacang puteh, there were also games aimed at increasing disability awareness, as well as modified sports such as basketball, soccer, archery and boccia, tailored for the special needs community.
SPD President Ms Chia Yong Yong was glad to see the enthusiasm and interaction of the walk participants. She said: “Events like today’s fun walk can go a long way in helping to change the mindset and acceptance of persons with special needs as it fosters greater understanding and raises awareness of disability issues. It creates opportunities for interaction. Building an inclusive society is everyone’s responsibility and we should continue with efforts that encourage interaction among those with special needs and those without.”
“SPD will continue our effort in advocating inclusion and acceptance of persons with disabilities,” she added.