And he’s off — “swimming all the Wai.”
Wai Hung Ma, a self-advocate who has never allowed cerebral palsy to limit his ambitions, slipped into the YMCA-YWCA pool Friday to raise funds for the Kamloops Y by going the distance — 1,000 metres or 40 laps.
A group of supporters applauded from poolside as Wai (pronounced “Way”) set off, accompanied by swim coach Meghan Fair and Miss Kamloops 2016, Olivia Verity-Kryger, in the pool. The downtown community ambassadors were on hand as well.
Y staff and Graham Specht, a diversity outreach worker with Kamloops Immigrant Services who has lent support to Wai’s training and preparation, had no doubt that he would reach his goal.
“It’s Wai,” said Jacquie Brand of the Y shelter, noting that the man cannot be underestimated.
“We’ve got three hours in which to get through 40 laps,” Specht said. “I’ll put in 10 laps.”
Michael Maveety delivered 225 iced muffins, minutes before the swim began, adding another fundraising component to the initiative.
Specht was introduced to Wai a couple of years ago by Immigrant Services executive director Paul Lagace. Lagace told him that anyone working in diversity outreach in Kamloops should know Wai. Since then they’ve become friends with Wai participating in anti-bullying workshops.
“Last year, he called me and said ‘I want to swim,’ ” Specht explained. They were able to find access and assistance at the Y. It was after that when the fundraising idea developed, "Swim All The Wai". Wanting to encourage the widest possible participation, Wai insisted that donations would only be $5. He’s hoping his example will inspire others will set challenges for themselves. He’s currently writing a book about the swim and the year of training that has enabled the feat.
He hopes to make the swim an annual inter-city challenge.
Achieving feats to inspire others is what Wai is all about, Specht said.