Laura Wilson to Depart Role as ONPARA Executive Director

It’s not goodbye, it’s ‘see you later’

Executive Director Laura Wilson

It is with bittersweet emotion that the Ontario Para Network announces the departure of Executive Director Laura Wilson, effective July 2. After seven years in the role and with a strong sense of accomplishment, Laura will be moving on to pursue new opportunities and challenges with another sport organization.

“Words are inadequate to express our appreciation of the passion and devotion Laura has brought to ONPARA over the past seven years. She has truly made a difference by broadening awareness of adaptive sport in Ontario,” said Diane Elliot, President of the Ontario Para Network’s Board of Directors. “We wish her all the best as she embarks on a new adventure.”

When Laura joined ONPARA in 2014 – then called the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association – she was the only employee and found herself with the task of building a team of dedicated individuals to carry out all the responsibilities and programs needed to best serve the wheelchair sports community in Ontario. Slowly but surely, she led the growth and development of the organization, helped strengthen its position and reputation within Ontario and Canada, and worked closely with the Board of Directors to help shape a new identity and future direction for the organization.

2017 Invictus Games in Toronto

Always one to jump in with both feet and never say ‘no’ to an opportunity, Laura has overseen and contributed to a tremendous number of projects, initiatives, and events both large and small that have positively impacted ONPARA and the greater adaptive sports community in Ontario and Canada. In her time as Executive Director, she has been a part of hosting three National Championships, several international wheelchair tennis tournaments, countless local events, and has fulfilled key roles in the delivery of major international competitions – the 2015 Parapan Am Games, 2017 Men’s U23 World Wheelchair Basketball Championship, and the 2017 Invictus Games.

Most visibly, she led the recent rebranding efforts of the organization in 2019, which included a new name and logo alongside a bold, modern, clean, and consistent visual identity to help position ONPARA for future growth. Most importantly, however, was all the behind-the-scenes work, planning, and administrative duties that often went unnoticed yet made the most significant impact and provided the most opportunities to ONPARA members across the province. Time and again, Laura used her creativity and resourcefulness to secure countless grants and capitalize on funding opportunities to help launch, sustain, or grow ONPARA’s programming, services, and staffing capacity. These included targeted initiatives supporting women & girls of all ages and abilities, our provincial teams and high performance athletes, coaches & officials development, improved accessibility, public outreach & education, and equipment purchases and maintenance. The impact Laura has made remains immeasurable and the impression she has left will be long-lasting.

2017 Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Championships in Hamilton

“It’s been my honour to work for such an incredible group of athletes, coaches and volunteers. I’ve had the privilege of working with so many smart, talented and creative individuals and I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished together. I know the organization is positioned for continued growth and success,” said Wilson.

“Thank you for letting me lead the organization these past seven years and a special thank you to Ken Thom for believing in me. I’m proud of how far we’ve come and will continue cheering the organization’s future achievements and successes,” she added.

ONPARA has begun the search for a new Executive Director. Further information regarding the application process and deadline will be made publicly available shortly.

About the Ontario Para Network

Formerly known as the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association, our mission at the Ontario Para Network (ONPARA) is to grow opportunities for participation in adaptive sports across Ontario. As the governing body for wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis in the province, we strive to offer opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in recreational, competitive, and high performance programs. We lead, develop, support and advocate for athletes, coaches and volunteers to build strong and inclusive sport communities. We also deliver extensive outreach and education programs targeting schools as well as individuals and clinicians at rehabilitation hospitals and the broader health care sector.