Written by Kathy Newman
Laurel Crosby is a highly respected individual within the sports community and is a dedicated advocate for people with disabilities. She is recognized throughout the country, for her outstanding level of involvement, leadership and initiative on behalf of wheelchair sports.
Laurel began volunteering with BC Wheelchair Sports back in 1979. She would be elected to the BCWSA Board of Directors in 1980 and go on to represent the BCWSA on the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association Board of Directors.
In the years that followed, Laurel became President of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association President (1993-1997) as well as President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee (1997-1998).
Laurel’s leadership has impacted numerous aspects of wheelchair sports throughout Canada. In particular, she provided leadership in developing junior sports in mid-1980’s by helping to create the first National Junior Sports Camp, which was held in Toronto at Variety Village in 1984. Laurel then went on to chair the coordination of the National Junior Sports Camp in her hometown of Richmond, BC.
Laurel has also spearheaded programs throughout the able bodied community, particularly at the school level, for a better understanding of attitudes toward people with disabilities. While working as principal of the Richmond school district, she worked tirelessly to ensure that students understood the value of inclusion.
Her true love, however, lies in team management. Early on, she began to manage teams at the provincial and national level, including the BC Summer and Winter Games for the Disabled as well the BC teams that competed in National Championships. Laurel then went on to manage Canadian teams at the International level in Paris, Puerto Rico and Seoul. In 1992, she was chosen as Chef de Mission of the Canadian Team at the Summer Paralympics in Barcelona.
Laurel receives one of many awards for service
Here is Laurel talking about her first experience being in charge of the Canadian team in 1986 in Puerto Rico, “I was responsible for a wheelchair team of about 75 athletes and staff. It was definitely a trial by fire experience. Our accommodations were on an army base; armed soldiers patrolling every block, we lived in barracks with bunk beds, the top bunks of course being useless for our athletes, so therefore, not enough beds, busses that weren’t wheelchair accessible, a challenging Organizing Committee to work with, and bailing a couple of athletes out of jail for shimmying up a flagpole and “borrowing” some flags. I loved every minute of it. Every day brought new challenges; it was exciting, fun and in the end we proudly pulled off a very successful team experience for Canada.”
Laurel has been recognized over the years for her commitment to wheelchair sports, receiving the Sport BC Daryl Thompson Life-time achievement award, the Promotion Plus In Her Footsteps award, and was nominated for the Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Award.