Wheelchairs for beach access

READY TO ROLL: Two of the beach wheelchairs with, from left, Joanne Waters (WBAG), Ann Ryan (Council), Cyanne Westerman (WBAG), Rachel Barlow (WBAG), Gail Rostig (Council), Jacob Barlow, Peter Borda (Walk and Talk Group), Isabella Barlow, Meg Hill (Whyalla Lions Club), Stuart McLaughlin, Graham Campbell (Whyalla Lions Club) and Irene McLaughlin (WBAG).
READY TO ROLL: Two of the beach wheelchairs with, from left, Joanne Waters (WBAG), Ann Ryan (Council), Cyanne Westerman (WBAG), Rachel Barlow (WBAG), Gail Rostig (Council), Jacob Barlow, Peter Borda (Walk and Talk Group), Isabella Barlow, Meg Hill (Whyalla Lions Club), Stuart McLaughlin, Graham Campbell (Whyalla Lions Club) and Irene McLaughlin (WBAG).

Whyalla is on track to have three beach wheelchairs and access matting this summer with the new Accessible Beach Program.

The final slice of funding for the program was handed to the Whyalla Beach Access Group (WBAG) this week by the Wellness Centre Walk and Talk Group of Whyalla.

A cheque of $1500 tops up the fundraising effort from WBAG that has raised more than $15,000 for the life-changing wheelchairs.

Custom-made to travel over sand, the wheelchairs will be complemented this summer by beach access mats for wheelchairs, prams and walkers.

The Wellness Centre Walk and Talk Group funds will go towards facilities at the Whyalla Surf Life Saving Club to house the wheelchairs.

Council Youth Development Officer Gail Rostig took on the task of helping WBAG with the Accessible Beach Program after it started its fundraising campaign.

The beach mats came about after WBAG member Cyanne Westerman raised awareness of the issue and was approached by the State Government to lend a hand.

The result was the State Government providing $37,000 to purchase the mats and assist with the access program.

"Council recognises that getting on the beach can be difficult for some people and has been exploring how our beaches can be made more accessible for all ages and abilities," Gail said.

"WBAG has done an amazing job to raise all the funds necessary to purchase these three all-access wheelchairs with the help of several other community groups including the British American Motorcycle Club, Whyalla Lions Club and, now, the Wellness Centre Walk and Talk Group.

"They did, however, struggle to secure public liability insurance and that is where Council was able to step in and provide the necessary cover while helping negotiate and design a sustainable beach access program to deal with the matting and wheelchairs."

Peter Borda, from the Wellness Centre Walk and Talk Group, said the program was an ideal cause for the group to support.

"We were looking for something to support ... something to inspire people to walk more with our group," Peter said.

"I caught up with Cyanne and Zia (Westerman) for some ideas and they mentioned the beach access group.

"Some of the donations we got blew me away ... it is so heartening to see we have so much care and compassion in the community.

"I don't know what it is like to be in a wheelchair but something like this program extends the enjoyment of this beautiful life we have, whether it be in a wheelchair or not."

The Whyalla Life Saving Club will assist the program once the necessary volunteers are sourced and required facilities are put in place. The wheelchairs will be available during patrolled beach times with booking and contact details still to be finalised