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Biography & Autobiography Sports

Moving Forward

The Journey of Paralympian Colette Bourgonje

by (author) Mary Harelkin Bishop

DriverWorks Ink and Emmbee Ink
Initial publish date
Jan 2010
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2010
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 10 to 18
  • Grade: 5 to 12


As a talented able-bodied teenage athlete in Porcupine Plain, SK, Colette Bourgonje had a bright future in sports. A car accident changed her future, but only temporarily. She became the first disabled student to graduate from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Physical Education, the first female student in a wheelchair to graduate from Physical Education from any Canadian university, and an inspiring teacher and world-class cross country sit-skier who would compete in her ninth Paralympic Games in 2010.

About the author


  • Commended, Approved for Wellness 10 Curriculum, Saskatchewan Education

Contributor Notes

Mary Harelkin Bishop is the author of the best-selling Tunnels of Moose Jaw Adventures series and the award-winning novel Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story. She is a Saskatoon teacher who was so inspired by Colette Bourgonje’s triumphs and struggles that she wrote Colette’s story to honour her perseverance, dedication and optimistic spirit. Moving Forward is Mary’s first non-fiction book.

Excerpt: Moving Forward: The Journey of Paralympian Colette Bourgonje (by (author) Mary Harelkin Bishop)

A Day Unlike Any Other

April 20, 1980, begins as any other Sunday for 
Colette Bourgonje.  She has small plans for the day, and bigger plans for the rest of her life. Spring is in the air. It is the season of hope, renewal and rebirth.
Colette is excited and enthusiastic about what the 
future holds for her. At 18 years of age, she is almost 
finished high school. Graduation takes place in just two months. She has her whole life ahead of her and it looks exciting!
The Bourgonje home is already filled with Colette’s trophies and medals. (Bourgonje – pronounced begonia, like the flower.) In particular, Colette has been widely recognized as an athlete with the potential to further excel nationally in track and distance running. Local newspaper clippings reveal a beaming, confident Colette, proud of her accomplishments in many sports including track and field, badminton, volleyball, basketball, hockey and football. 
Colette is a small-town girl with big dreams and great determination. Everyone who knows her has a feeling that she will go far. The people in her hometown of Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan (300 kilometres northeast of the big city of Saskatoon) are proud of this young athlete and are anxiously watching to see what she will accomplish next. They can’t wait until she puts their little town on the map. They are sure it will happen.
The early morning sun beams brightly into Colette’s bedroom window and even though it is the weekend, she rises. Stifling a yawn and throwing back the covers, she jumps out of bed. She has made a running date with Joi Belyk. Although Joi is her teacher and high school track coach, Joi is only a few years older than Colette and the two enjoy training together. 
They plan to run the trails through the hills and forests surrounding Porcupine Plain. It is a great workout and Colette is looking forward to it. This is what she lives for – to get out of bed each day and be not only active, but pushing forward toward her goal of being the best athlete she can be.
Eager to be off, Colette jumps into her running clothes, pulls on her running shoes and slips quietly out the door. She can eat later. Now, it’s time to exercise.
In the early morning calm, it feels just like any other Sunday, full of the promise of a relaxed day. Colette doesn’t know it yet, but this day will soon become a pivotal point in her young life. It will be a day of lasts ... and a day of firsts.
For now, though, Colette is going for a run. The sun is shining and life is good.
The main street is deserted. Colette jogs easily past the closed stores and businesses, her dark hair bouncing on her shoulders. She can see Joi waiting for her at the corner and she feels adrenalin begin to pump through her body. The two young women push themselves as they run side by side. Colette is already a few inches taller than her petite teacher. Most of her height comes from her lanky legs....

Editorial Reviews

“Young people need heroes - individuals who meet life with determination and grace … Colette Bourgonje's story should be celebrated and promoted. From the time of her accident until her preparation for the Paralympics in March 2010, the list of Colette Bourgonje's awards and medals easily fills two entire pages. This book will appeal to readers on several levels. It is a story about overcoming adversity. It is the story of a local woman who achieved great things. It is also a story about wonderful friendships as well as great family love and support.”

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