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This article was published 24/9/2018 (483 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After more than 50 years volunteering with basketball and wheelchair basketball organizations, Maureen Orchard says she’s got at least as much out of the experience as she’s put in.
And considering Orchard’s extensive list of contributions, accolades and honours relating to both sports on a global scale, that’s really saying something.
Orchard, who lives in St. Vital, was recently honoured by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation with the prestigious Gold Medal Triad award, and the title of honorary secretary general. She was presented with the award and title by current IWBF president Ulf Mehrens at the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Hamburg, Germany.
After more than five decades as a dedicated volunteer in both sports, including 12 years serving as president of the IWBF, Orchard has decided to step away from basketball. One of the goals is to spend more time with friends and family, but the 72-year-old knows that easing up on her workload is easier said than done.
"I didn’t rerun as president in 2014 when my term was up, as I believed it was time to move on to other things," Orchard said, noting she has some idea what these things might include.
She has, however, agreed to stay involved with the basketball community through 2020 and the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan as an advisor and technical committee member.
"I’ve had some wonderful experiences, and I love the people in the sport. They are great people," Orchard said, noting all of her involvement through the years has been in a volunteer capacity.
According to a news release from Wheelchair Basketball Canada, the Gold Medal Triad is the highest honour in the sport. Orchard is only the second Canadian to receive the honour, following legendary player and three-time Paralympic champion Chantal Benoit. The IWBF awards the Gold Medal Triad to individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of wheelchair basketball in an outstanding manner on both the national and international levels.
Orchard’s impressive list of achievements includes an induction in the builder category to the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2017, and the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. She was pivotal in the establishment of the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association (now Wheelchair Basketball Canada) in 1993, and she served as president of the association from 1993 to 1998.
Her lifelong involvement with the sport she loves all started for Orchard, who grew up in northwest Winnipeg and lived there for many years, when she was 12.
"I was invited to play in basketball in a church league, and I came home very upset because I was asked to be an administrator for the league," Orchard said, with a laugh.
"My mom reminded me then how important it was for me to give back to the community. When she was 92 years old, and I was elected as the federation president, she joked that she didn’t mean it to last that long. I came from a family that gave back, and that’s just how it’s always been."
Orchard is also grateful for the ongoing support of her late husband, Jim, who taught in the Seven Oaks School Division.
And as she reflects on her remarkable tenure, Orchard is grateful for the opportunities the sport has given her.
"Basketball has been my passion my whole life, and I’ve got at least as much out of it as it has given me," she said.
"I’ve learned so much about people who experience different challenges in life, and it’s been a great opportunity to help people who are just differently-abled. And in my opinion, it’s one of the few sports that allows people to play with their friends. People are unable to walk for any number of reasons, and wheelchair basketball gives people a great opportunity to carry on with their lives. I’m also a great believer that sport is an opportunity for people to test themselves in a team environment."
"Sport allows people to grow and show their abilities, and gives youngsters a chance to thrive, be productive, enjoy themselves, and be part of something," she added.
One of the highlights of her career was being able to "bring new depth for the women’s game" in the sport, she said.
Community journalist — The Lance
Simon Fuller is the community journalist for The Lance. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7111