Exercise promotes handicap awareness

CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte Brenda Miller of Southwest Cheese, left, and Erinn Burch of the United Way of Eastern New Mexico, make their way to the buffet line Wednesday at the Pizza Palace while participating in an event that raised awareness about life for people in wheelchairs

By Gabriel Monte, CNJ Staff Writer

Claire Burroughes said she got stuck while doing something as simple as getting coffee at work.

Burroughes, community relations director for the city of Clovis, spent Wednesday morning in a wheelchair while participating in an exercise that aims to raise awareness of the difficulties many people confined to wheelchairs experience every day.

After pouring the coffee, she realized she was not going to be able to go back to her office while carrying a mug in her hand.

She said a co-worker had to push her into her office. She said she learned her independence was lost.

“I’m not good with people helping me,” she said.

Burroughes and other participants shared their experiences of being wheelchair-bound as the exercise ended at noon at the Pizza Palace, which was a registration point for the the Walk MS event next month at Clovis Community College. The fundraising event is sponsored by Southwest Cheese for the National MS Society.

The wheelchairs were provided by 1st Choice Medical Equipment and Clovis Home Medical, said Gail Lindsey, National MS Society All America Panhandle Division program and services coordinator.

The exercise was a part of the Western Division of the National MS Society’s Roll-On, which tries to raise awareness of what life is like for people with multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that confines many people to wheelchairs.

Lindsey said there are about 2,800 people in New Mexico suffering from the disease.

“MS stops people from moving,” Lindsey said. “And the National MS Society exists to see that it doesn’t.”

Other participants of the roll-on exercise included United Way of Eastern New Mexico executive director Erinn Burch and Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

Burch said she realized quickly that most of her activities, even simply moving around her office, had to be planned.

“It limited my forays into the world,” she said. “I learned you have to find those (handicap accessible) ramps.”

Brumfield admitted she was not able to fully participate in the exercise. She said she had difficulty getting her wheelchair out of her car. But she said she did not like seeing the wheelchair in the back seat of her car.

“I didn’t like it back there,” she said. “It made me feel sad.”