After a brief meet-and-greet with the Paralympic champion, a few speeches filled the room, with Jay Hill of Apache opening up the floor, followed by Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, Jennifer Gibson of PacificSport Canada, then finally, the man of the hour, Bo Hedges. In his speech, Hedges thanked those who helped him in his journey to becoming an Olympian, and shared his memories of growing up in the Peace and his appreciation for the region.
"Over the years, Fort St. John, the Peace Country, have done a lot for me in terms of helping me along my way. I’ve always felt welcome. This is where I like to spend my vacation time to come home to, to my parent’s ranch to see my friends and family up here, it’s always been home to me and where I want to go. It’s just amazing to be able to bring this gold medal back here."
In his speech, Hedges also spoke about being a part of Team Canada and the dedication he and his fellow wheelchair basketball teammates exhibited through their past Paralympic Games. He also discussed the importance of team work and unity, and the hard work Team Canada put into winning the gold medal.
Following his speech, Hedges was presented with various memorabilia of his past, such as his old wheelchair basketball jersey and track suit, and some pictures of him competing in his earlier days. The presentations were made even more special by the presenters: three children that said they were inspired by Hedges to take up the sport of basketball. One girl even says she's been inspired to train to become an Olympian herself.
Following the speeches, Hedges said it’s a great feeling knowing he is inspiring kids to take up wheelchair basketball.
"It’s pretty amazing; I love to give back to the sport and the community. I had really good role models, so I love getting out and going to junior camps and helping out there and just being around and being their friend, knowing that if they need anything all they need to do is ask."
Jennifer Gibson, Sport Development Coordinator for PacificSport B.C. and an organizer of last night’s event, said the turnout exceeded organizer’s expectations, and that it was great to see the community come out and show their support for Bo, who has put so much into winning the gold medal.
To conclude the evening, it was announced efforts are going to be made to put wheelchairs in every school in the Peace Region, as part of a program being called "Let's Play". The intention of the new program is to help expose kids to the sport of wheelchair basketball and provide an opportunity to children with disabilities to compete in athletics.
More photos from the event available below: