Brock University is mourning the loss of a graduate whose spirit and perseverance was an inspiration to the Niagara community.
Christi Rougoor, 29, passed away last week due to complications related to her paralysis.
Rougoor was well known around Brock, both as a student and alumna.
She was a member of Brock’s Power Cord Exercise Program when the popular wheelchair accessible exercise facility was little more than a piece of equipment in the basement of Welch Hall.
Rougoor, who graduated from Brock with an honours Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education and Master of Education, joined Power Cord after a motocross accident left her paralyzed from the waist down in 2008.
The beloved E. L. Crossley Secondary School teacher and coach continued to participate in Power Cord after graduating.
Associate Professor of Kinesiology and director of Power Cord David Ditor said Rougoor was an amazing person who was an inspiration to everyone who knew her.
“The one word I would use to describe Christi is vibrant,” he said. “She really did have an energy and vibrant personality. She lived life as large as anyone I’ve ever known.”
He said Rougoor was a vocal ambassador for the Power Cord program and never missed an opportunity to help fundraise and raise awareness about its benefits.
Her generosity of spirit extended into his classroom on multiple occasions when Rougoor shared her story with his fourth-year class focused on spinal cord injury.
“She added so much to the education of students,” he said.
He recalled finding out Rougoor went bungee jumping in her wheelchair – when it was shown on Late Night with Jon Stewart. He wasn’t surprised.
“That’s just the type of person Christi was, she lived larger than life, was never limited and was always in the spotlight,” he said.
In a 2011 edition of Surgite, Brock’s alumni magazine, Rougoor talked openly about the motocross accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down.
Her strength and courage came through in the article, written in her own words as a way to inspire others to overcome life’s challenges.
“Despite all the obstacles attached to a newly injured paraplegic, I have been determined to achieve,” she wrote.
Three months after leaving intensive rehab at Chedoke Hospital, while continuing out-patient rehabilitation, Rougoor participated in the Rick Hanson Wheels in Motion event at Brock. Three months later, she was back in class.
She was proud to win first prize in the Brock News summer vacation photo contest in which she showed off her first travels as a paraplegic.
“It was difficult and stressful at times; it is not easy for someone restricted to a chair to get around in a two-legged world,” she wrote. “But, my travels took me from the beaches of California to the top of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies. I never thought I’d be able to do what I’ve done, so far and so soon.”
Rougoor was a talented artist and she was training for her next challenge, the Niagara Falls International Marathon. Her funeral was held Saturday.