Spinal Injuries Scotland sixth annual BBQ and Activities Day: Sports, smiles and sunshine

Woman using adapted kayak at Castle Semple

Wheelchair users from across Scotland descended on Castle Semple for the first time in three years for the 2022 Spinal Injuries Scotland summer barbecue.

The annual event at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, Renfrewshire offers survivors of spinal cord injuries respite from their typical routines by getting the chance to take part in adventure sports like hand-biking, kayaking, sailing, canoeing and power-boating.

More than 100 people attended the sun-kissed activity day on Wednesday 20 July marking the great return since it was last held in person in 2019.

And what made the day all the more poignant is that for some patients at the Queen Elizabeth Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow it was the first time they’ve been able to leave the unit in months.

Men sailing on adapted powerboat

Maureen Morrison from Spinal Injuries Scotland was delighted to reunite with members, patients and other attendees.

She said: “It’s extremely exciting to be back.

“The pandemic has been so hard for us and the members over the past few years so the fact we’ve been able to put the barbecue back on and all be together has been fantastic.

“I saw something quite emotional… people taking part in a sport that they thought they would never be able to take part in.”

In addition to the sports was the barbecue, music and games.

For some it was simply amazing to get outside for the first time in months and enjoy the glorious sunshine and 25 degree weather with friends and family.

Among the attendees were players from St Mirren FC - Alex Greive, Scott Tanser and Greg Kiltie – who were inspired by the event.

Players from St Mirren attend SIS BBQ

Alex said:

“There’s some people who are going through some tough times here, it’s good to see them out and about. There’s a real community feeling here.”

Scott agreed, saying:

“Obviously you want to get people out doing more activities. The lockdowns have really put a setback on things so seeing a lot of people getting out, putting themselves out there and ‘pushing the boat out’… it’s really great to see.”

Woman using hand-cycle

Jon Hasler, Team Lead Physiotherapist at the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit added:

“Before COVID-19, we used to bring patients to the barbecue every year. It allows them to get out of their wheelchair and into an activity where they don’t use the chair – it gives them a great sense of freedom.”

Claire McGeehan, Occupational Therapy Team Lead at the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit, was amazed after attending the SIS event for the first time this year.

She said: “It’s great to see patients from the Unit come out into the community.

“This is my first time attending. It’s great to see those who are normally quite reserved trying things I didn’t expect them to want to try! It’s really uplifting.”

Digby Brown Team at the 2022 SIS BBQ

Chris Stewart, Partner and Head of Digby Brown’s Serious Injury team, was proud to have sponsored the day for the sixth year in a row.

Every day Chris and his team help survivors of spinal cord injuries so they understand the life-changing impacts these injuries can have – and why confidence-building and life-affirming events like the Castle Semple barbecue are so important.

He said: “It’s really great to see smiles on people’s faces and that’s ultimately what today is all about.

“What’s been really interesting for me is talking to people and hearing their stories about how they came through lockdown.

“Some of the patients said they hadn’t seen the staff without their masks on – they’re getting to see what the people who are helping them actually look like. That’s something we took for granted a long time ago, and yet it’s a big deal now.”