Can’t do is not in Maggie Manning’s vocabulary.
Despite being born with no hips and undergoing 10 operations to build and re-position them, Manning believes she can do anything, even if it’s not the way others do things.
Not only does the 18-year-old athlete graduate from Salmon Arm Secondary this week, she does so with several scholarships.
Among them is a prestigious Terry Fox Humanitarian Award, which is open to students of all abilities and will provide $7,000 a year over four years and identify Manning as a Terry Fox Scholar.
As well as being in good academic standing, applicants must be involved in voluntary humanitarian activities and be in or entering a post-secondary institution.
Manning, who is spending the summer working as a lifeguard at a Bible camp on the Sunshine Coast, is entering a biomedical studies program with a view to earning a BA in Health Sciences at UNBC in Prince George – to start.
“I really want to go into the pediatric health-care system, but I don’t know if I want to be a doctor or a nurse,” says Manning, whose many surgeries at Vancouver’s Children’s Hospital have posed sometimes lengthy recoveries. “I was born without a ball or socket so the bones would just grind together and slip into different places. One surgery actually took two years’ recovery because I had to adapt, relearning to walk, something most people take for granted, and some have had complications.”
But from the time she was a little child in a body cast being ferried around her neighbourhood in a little red wagon, Manning and her parents, Frank and Salle Manning, have viewed obstacles as simply a challenge to overcome.
“They made sure I could do everything every other kid could do, maybe not the same way as others, but definitely doing it,” says the spunky teen, noting she has had to be resilient and not be confined or defined by her limitations. “I wouldn’t be who I am without having been through these hardships.”
Manning’s mom says she and her husband are proud of their daughter, whose attitude, despite the many obstacles, has always been, “Why not me?”
An avid athlete, Manning has participated in ringette, soccer, cross-country running and basketball. Forced to give up those sports, Manning took up swimming five years ago and went to Toronto in October 2017 and Montreal this April to train with the Canadian NextGen national paralympic swimming team.
“Five years ago, I went from being a late starter and super new to the sport to making provincial times in three months, then another three months I made nationals. In July 2013, I made international standard,” she says with the passion of someone who is doing something they love. “I just keep working with the goal of getting on the paralympic team for 2024.”
Manning, who does not use her legs when she swims, says her best event is the 400-metre freestyle.
As much effort as she puts into her sports and academic life, Manning has the energy and will to give back to her community.
She was on the committee which oversees leadership across School District #83 and raises funds for charities, primarily the Me to We program.
Manning is also passionate about mentorship.
“My biggest goal is to create a world that is more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities, both visually, physically and cognitively,” she says, explaining that people with disabilities are society’s biggest minority and that people deserve support for whatever they’re going through.
Manning says it’s not only necessary to make sure buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. Equally important is the need to get them involved in the greater community, something she does through sport.
Manning applied for the Terry Fox scholarship earlier in the year and, in late April, received a call to appear two days later for an interview in Vancouver.
“I was super excited. I thought the interview went well, but they told me I had to wait a month (for the results),” she says. “I didn’t expect to get it because it is such a prestigious award.”
The young athlete is equally proud of the five other scholarships that will help her reach her post-secondary goals: the District Authority Dogwood for Physical Education, North Okanagan Shuswap Teachers Association scholarship, one from Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union (SASCU), the Masonic Lodge of B.C. bursary and the Order of the Eastern Star bursary.
“I’m just looking forward to whatever life brings,” she says, even though her future includes another surgery in October.
Determined to head right back to school, Manning is excited by the prospect of swimming with the Prince George Barracudas.
“I hope to continue getting better,” she says, noting that through sheer will and determination, she plans to better not only herself, but the world as well.