Teaching from experience - Gilbert Dash spent some time with Grade 6-9 students at Kipling School recently, talking with them about ways that he was able to live through adversity and earn success in Wheelchair Curling.

It will never look the same.
Although each of us faces adversity in our lives, our unique circumstances will flavour the challenges we face, so that they will be unique as well. This can at times leave us convinced that we are fighting a solitary battle that those around us cannot comprehend.
Yet, for each of us, finding our way through adversity requires that we take up the very same tools.
Recently, Gilbert Dash (who is originally from Kipling) spoke to Grade 6-9 students at Kipling School about how determination, perseverance and resilience have allowed him to navigate through adversity and enabled him to achieve success in wheelchair curling at the provincial, national and international level.
Dash says that he began his presentation by describing his experience as a student at that same school.
“This was the first time that I’ve ever given a presentation like that to students and I wanted to let them know that I started out from the same place that they’re starting out from.
“I started out by talking about when I was a student at Kipling School from 1973 until 1986 and showed photos of the Magyar teams that I was a member of. I was involved in several sports growing up, including hockey, badminton, and curling. So, I talked to them about that. I even got to share a story about one of their teachers (Monica Olson) who was my badminton teammate when we were in school.”
However, although his “life before March 2006” might have looked similar to theirs, Dash went on to explain to the students that everything changed in an instant – when a Ski Jump accident in Kimberly, BC that left Dash with an incomplete spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia.
“The photos from life after March 2006 were of the scar on my back, x-rays and other tests. I talked to the kids about what my injury was and the tough time that I had when I was taken to the hospital in Calgary. Because I had an incomplete spinal cord injury, I was in a lot of pain. I almost didn’t make it.
“I told them about this overwhelming feeling of just wanting it to be over that I went through after the accident. It was a hard time in my life. I’m really just finding that I’m able to talk about it now.
During the months that followed, as he went from the hospital in Calgary – to Regina General Hospital – and then to Wascana Rehabilitation Centre – Dash told the students that the support he received from family and friends strengthened him as he battled back against his circumstances – and encouraged them to be ready to provide that support for others when they faced adversity.
“I showed the students photos of my family and talked to them about how important their support was to me. That was something I really wanted to get across to them. I told them how much it hurt me when a family member was paralyzed. Before that, I didn’t know how much family members suffer when their loved one suffers. But hard as it is, it’s important to be there for that person. Because at a time like that, nothing else matters.
“I also showed them photos of a ramp and deck being built at my house by my friends. I needed that ramp so that I could get into the house. So, my friends helped by building that for me. I told the students how important being a friend for somebody is too. If you’re a friend, be ready to step in and help. Having friends that are there to help can make such a big difference in a person’s ability to deal with what they’re facing.”
“I told the students that one of the things I found out in life after rehab was that I like to throw rocks at houses. Then I showed them a video that introduces Wheelchair Curling and shows what it involves.
“I also talked to them about the things I learned as an athlete – discipline, perseverance and coping strategies – and about how that gave me another kind of resiliency – which enabled me to earn a spot on Team Saskatchewan (Dash now has four National Wheelchair Curling Championship Gold Medals) and Team Canada (at the 2023 World Wheelchair Championship).
“It’s hard to get a spot on teams like that. You can’t be second best – you have to be the best. When I talked about this to the students, I likened it to a job interview. If you’re in second or third place after a job interview – you don’t get the job. You have to be first.
“The difference between being very good and being the very best takes a lot of work no matter what you’re doing and that requires resiliency as well. With something like curling, you have to be committed to the sport and committed to your teammates while still trying to live a balanced life.
“I also talked about how going to the Spinal Cord Gym – First Step to Wellness Centre was important for me, because being around people who were in similar situations to my own helped my mental health. And being resilient means that you take care of both your physical and mental health.
“So, it’s important to work hard and put all that you have into it. You can’t just go part way into something if you really want it.”
Dash then went on to talk about the success has earned through Wheelchair Curling, noting that students could also achieve success in their endeavors by approaching the adversity that they faced with similar resolve.
“I told them about my accomplishments in curling and what was next for me.
I’m part of Team Canada again and I’ll be going to the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Korea (March 2-9). Last year, our team won the Silver Medal at the World Championships. This year, we’re after that Gold Medal.
“Then at the end of March, I’ll be curling with Team Saskatchewan at the National Wheelchair Curling Championship in Moose Jaw again. We won the Gold Medal and became National Champions last year…and we would like to do that again!”
Monica Olson (a teacher at Kipling School who retired at the end of the First Term this year) invited Dash to speak at the school and says that he provided them with an example of how to confront adversity in their own lives.
“I’ve known Gilbert for 45 years. We went to school together.
“In the years since his accident, whenever I’ve had the chance to chat with him, I’ve always found Gilbert to be so positive. I know that he’s had his ‘down’ moments, everyone does. But I felt that he has always had such a great outlook and attitude. He didn’t let what happened to him define him.
“After Gilbert won Silver with Team Canada last year, I told him that I thought it was time for him to come to the school and share his story with some of the students.
“I wanted the students to see that big things can happen for somebody who comes from a smaller community like Kipling. I also wanted them to have a better understanding of what a sport like Wheelchair Curling demands, and how hard the athletes who take part in sports like that have to train.
“But above all, I wanted the students to hear Gilberts story and understand that when you encounter adversity, you have to deal with it the right way in order to be successful.”
As Dash explained to the students, his experience has taught him that the “right way” to face adversity is by continuing to strive no matter what the circumstances set before you.
“Stuff is going to happen. Adversity is guaranteed – life is full of it. You have to keep fighting for every single little thing, no matter what you’re doing. But if you find something that you like to do and people that you enjoy being with – then the work that you have to do won’t seem as tough.
“Ultimately, if you are resilient, you can use adversity as fuel to go harder and eventually achieve your long-term goals.”

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