RIC student honored for work on behalf of people with disabilities

Shane Bourque, 19, is a student compelled to give back to those who helped him deal with his own disability – and now he, a sophomore at RIC majoring in communication, is being recognized for his outstanding efforts in community service.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has named Bourque the recipient of the Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award for 2011 in Rhode Island for his contributions on the behalf of people with disabilities. One representative from each state is chosen every year, and one representative is then chosen to receive the National award.

Shane Bourque
When Bourque was about seven, he began participating in the MDA’s annual Walk-A-Thon, with his family. But for Bourque, walking for the benefit of the MDA wasn’t just a sacrifice of his time and effort, it was also a testament to his determination and capabilities.

Bourque has muscular dystrophy. Specifically, Becker muscular dystrophy, an inherited version of the disorder that involves slowly worsening muscle weakness of the legs and pelvis.

“Most people would never know that I had it,” said Bourque.

Participants of the Walk-A-Thons surely wouldn’t. During his early years of walking with his family, he was given a scooter to help compensate for his disability. Eventually, though, Bourque began walking the trails on his own. By helping at the Walk-A-Thons, he and his family became yearly advocates for the fight against muscular dystrophy.

“I just wanted to help those who were less fortunate than I was,” he said of his contributions. Bourque said he believes that because he’s still relatively uninhibited by his disability, he feels even more compelled to support the cause.

And the cause is worthy. The Muscular Dystrophy Association funds research, provides medical and community services, and educates health professionals and the general public to help combat muscular dystrophy.

“(Bourque) is a wonderful example of this kind of leadership that people with disabilities contribute to their communities every day,” said MDA President & CEO Gerald C. Weinberg.

Nominated for the award by the MDA’s office in Warwick, Bourque said he feels honored to be recognized for his efforts, and the recognition he receives for the award helps him to further spread the message about the fight against muscular dystrophy.

But Bourque retains his perspective, recognizing the countless people diagnosed with disabilities who also give back to the cause.

“It’s definitely not just me,” he says with a swift shake of the head. “It has to be a combined effort from all of us.”