Why a Manitoba man is going on an epic 5,000-km snowmobile journey around the province

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba man who suffered life-altering injuries in a motorcycle crash turned his attention to snowmobiling, going on an epic 5,000-kilometre journey around the province while raising money for a rehabilitation centre he founded.

Shane Hartje founded First Steps Wellness Centre, after recovering from a dirt bike accident that left him paraplegic in 2016. The centre is the only spinal cord injury and neurological rehabilitation facility in the province.

With the centre growing new equipment is needed for expanded programming for children and stroke patients. Hartje launched a fundraising campaign, and along with a support crew set off on what he called the “Encourage Manitoba Recovery Tour.”

Hartje said he chose to travel across the province for several reasons. 

First, he wanted a winter activity that could be performed by someone with mobility challenges, while at the same time encapsulating the centre’s goal of keeping people fit and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

“We wanted to do something that was a physical challenge to a certain extent, but also something that I could do at my age,” said Hartje. 

“Snowmobiles are all hand controls and I’m a passionate snowmobiler so I thought why don’t we try to do something?”

Plans came into place as prizes were collected for a draw. With a goal of raising $175,000 to pay for the centre’s expansion, Hartje is selling tickets for a brand new snowmobile as well as other prizes. The tour is meant to draw attention to the draw and raise awareness of the wellness centre.

Encourage Manitoba Recovery TourSome modifications were needed on Hartje’s machine before the tour could begin, including a backrest to help anchor him to the snowmobile, and a bracket on the back so he could bring his wheelchair along for the ride.

It hasn’t been all smooth riding with extreme cold temperatures last week combined with broken equipment. Hartje and his support crew of six travel about 400 kilometres a day starting at nine a.m. and going until six or seven at night.

“We’ve had our fair share of blunders and bobbles and what not, but now that the weather has turned around and it’s not 40 below, cause we did start last Saturday, like we had planned, and it was -37 that day,” said Hartje.

Daily challenges keep the trip interesting with lost wallet recovery missions and broken brackets causing Hartje’s wheelchair to tumble from his sled.

The trip began in Garson on Feb. 13 and has since covered a lot of ground. Swan River was the goal for Saturday night, but the tour has already passed through areas like Pinawa, Ashern, Gimli and Riding Mountain Nation Park. It’s expected to wrap in the Lac du Bonnet area next week.

“I think it’s an amazing thing that he’s doing. He is such a dedicated man to that centre,” said Gail Hatje, Shane’s mother.

“From what he’s done since he broke his back he’s had such a good outlook on life. It’s unreal.”

For more information on Hartje’s journey or details on how to purchase tickets head to encouragerecovery.ca

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