Wheelchair basketball’s Ben Hagkull inspires Cheam elementary school students

The Chilliwack native and member of the Canadian national program spoke at his former school.

Ben Hagkull sits back sometimes and marvels at how far he’s come.

Wednesday morning he’s in the staff room at Cheam elementary school, using a gold sharpie to sign his name on a stack of cards that will be handed out to students.

A few feet away, a large framed picture of the 20 year old rests on the table, soon to be hung on a wall for all to see as the school recognizes a famous alum.

A few minutes later, the wheelchair basketball star rolls into the gymnasium to tell his story of perseverance, hard work and success.

Looking out into the audience, he can picture himself, a decade ago, sitting in that same gym as a Cheam student, listening to someone else speak and waiting to be inspired.

“It’s really cool to be back here, and be able to share my message with kids who are going through the same experiences I did when I was here,” he said with a smile. “Sharing the message that it doesn’t matter where you come from. As long as you have a dream anything is possible.

“I have an opportunity to impact kids’ lives, and if they take something away from my talk that will stick with them in their lives, that inspires me to do this.”

Ben was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that has confined him to a wheelchair for nearly all his life.

He’s never let it slow him down.

He completed two triathlons before he was eight years old and has finished 14 in his lifetime, but his greatest accomplishments have come with a basketball in his hands.

He’s in Prince Edward Island this weekend playing for the B.C. Royals at the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball nationals.

A member of Canada’s junior national team, he’s represented his country in a world championship and he stands a good chance of being on the Canadian senior team roster for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Used to being in the spotlight, Ben isn’t fazed talking to a gym full of elementary schoolers. He enjoys it just as much, if not more, than his audience.

“It’s interesting, and kind of funny sometimes, because they have questions that not many adults would think of asking,” he says. “It definitely stretches my brain a bit because I’m not always prepared for what they come up with.”

Questions like what?

“When I was at (Chilliwack) Central elementary, one of the kids asked me how I get into bed,” he laughed. “It seems normal to me and I don’t think about it, but I explained that I have good upper body strength that lets me transfer into the bed and lay down like anyone else.

“Another kid asked me how I shower in the morning, which was very funny.

“Little questions like that take me by surprise.”

At the end of the talk, Ben hopes the kids see more of him and less of the wheelchair.

“I hope they feel like I’m just another kid who may have some challenges, but is going through life the same way they will,” Ben says. “And I hope they feel inspired to pursue their dreams no matter what their circumstances are like.”

Ben was at Cheam speaking on behalf of the Petro-Canada FACE program, which has provided him with funding since 2017 to help offset the costs of training and competing.

See petro-canada.ca/en/about-petro-canada/olympic-and-paralympic-sponsorship/face-program.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Plecas pitches an idea to fix Canadian prisons

Bringing you highlights from 128 years of Chilliwack Progress news coverage.

MP is urging people to weigh in on MAiD consultation

Online consultation will be taking feedback on assisted dying until Monday, January 27

Court Tuesday for Chilliwack MLA’s former constituency assistant charged with fraud

Fourth court appearance since October for Desmond Devnich who also faces breach of trust charges

Westbound Highway 1 roll-over crash slowing commuters in Abbotsford

Accident occurred just west of Mt. Lehman Road, left lane blocked

Fraser Valley snow storms finally fade

Six snowstorms in seven days pours on more than 40 cm

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Deer carcass strung up at Surrey fire hall prompts investigation

Investigation underway following complaint a Surrey firefighter hung a deer carcass in a fire hall

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Most Read