Improving accessibility at North Beach Provincial Park

A day on the beach is an essential Ontario Parks experience. There’s almost nothing better than soaking in the sun, relaxing on the sand, or playing in the water with friends and family.

This summer, John Cairns, from the Wheelchair of Hope Foundation, helped make this possible for all North Beach Provincial Park visitors through the donation of two wheelchair-accessible Mobi-Mats.

Beach accessibility

For those in need of a wheelchair or walker and even those with strollers, getting to the beach can be a challenge. The wheels can sink into the sand, making it tough to get around. That’s why Ontario Parks has made beach accessibility a priority wherever possible.

The donation of two Mobi-Mats to North Beach Provincial Park will help people with mobility challenges enjoy the sun and sand of a day at the beach.

Access for all visitors

Photo of presenter and donated Mobi-mats
Left: John Cairns, the founder of the Wheelchair of Hope Foundation, delivers some remarks at an opening ceremony for the Mobi-Mats

What is a Mobi-Mat?

It’s a nonslip roll-up access mat for beaches. It helps those with walkers, wheelchairs, and strollers avoid a trek through the sand and get to the water’s edge quickly and safely.

“This not only enhances mobility access, but also has a ripple impact across our communities towards increased local tourism and local economy,” Mr. Cairns said at an opening ceremony at the park on August 1, 2019. “It is a massive win for all.”

An incredible story

Left: Photo from John’s Mount Everest Basecamp Summit Right: Park visitors using the Mobi-mats

Twenty-six years ago, Mr. Cairns was hit by a train while working, and became a double amputee. But he describes this event as a gift, a changed perspective.

He beat the odds of survival and embraced his second chance at life, running Terry Fox marathons, learning to play squash, scuba diving, snowboarding, and even hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

He founded the Wheelchair of Hope Foundation five years ago. Its mission is to help people living with disabilities get the opportunity that comes with mobility and independence.

The foundation gives lightly used mobility equipment to Canadians who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. Individual donors, hospitals, and other non-profits donate wheelchairs, power chairs, and walkers so that Wheelchair of Hope Foundation can find them a new deserving home.

The foundation raised funds for the Mobi-Mats through their annual gala event.

Thank you, Mr. Cairns!

Mr. Cairns’ work has been widely recognized for the lives he’s changed.

He worked closely with the Belleville City Council on its Accessibility Advisory Council to advocate for greater inclusion in his hometown. In 2016, he was awarded the Peter Soumalias Unsung Hero Honour through Canada’s Walk of Fame. And in 2018, he was appointed an Honorary Colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Mr. Cairns says that he hopes the Mobi-mats will help more people enjoy the beautiful waterfront at North Beach.

Ontario Parks thanks you for your generous donation, Mr. Cairns!

If you are considering donating to Ontario Parks, or would like to support projects like these in the future, contact us through email here.