Chris Lesanko working with therapist
FIRST STEPS WELLNESS CENTRE
Chris Lesanko in a suit

A message from our founder

Chris Lesanko

Do you believe in fate? That all things happen for a reason, a greater cause even if we don’t understand it at the time? Or do you strive to attach something positive to inconceivable circumstances, refusing to let tragedy take more than it already has? In order to overcome adversity, I believe we have to fall into one of the above two categories.

When I was 16 years old, I had mapped out my future. I had taken a keen interest in Athletics focusing on health and fitness. I filled my days playing and watching sports and couldn’t imagine living any differently. My friend and I had resolved that upon graduation and post-secondary schooling, we would open a business together – a gym.

I continued on this path throughout high school, participating and excelling in all sports. I even obtained a Lacrosse scholarship to attend Bishop College in Quebec. My friend was working on his Physiology degree in Saskatchewan. Our paths would soon meet again as we never lost sight of our dream business.

Chris Lesanko in a sweatshirt holding his dog However, a major detour occurred in March of 2005 while I was playing Lacrosse in Quebec. I sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a wrestling accident one Friday night. My life changed dramatically as I struggled to cope with my new life as a quadriplegic with an incomplete spinal cord injury C4-C5. I met up with my friend back in Saskatchewan a little sooner than expected via an air ambulance. Here began my initial treatment at Wascana Rehabilitation Center.

I spent nine months in traditional in-patient rehabilitation. This meant two-45 minute sessions of physical therapy per day and one-45 minute session of occupational therapy per day. Even though I fought hard for every minute of therapy that I received, they were constantly trying to decrease my therapy time. I was to believe that this was the best of the best. Having an athletic mentality made me really question these supposed best practices.

Chris Lesanko performing an honourary faceoff at a lacrosse game

I was determined to seek better treatment and found out about a facility in California.  This was the first facility that provided intense and consistent programming working towards improving your function below your level of injury. My family and friends began to raise money so I could go immediately.

So one year after my injury, I made it to my destination in California.  I knew instantly that my rehabilitation had finally started.

After returning to Saskatchewan, with the help of family and Owen, we started developing a program that could improve function, independence and quality of life for people who suffered a spinal cord injury.  The program was going to be based on intense, exercise-based methods aimed at providing a stimulus below the level of injury to promote nerve growth/reorganization to regain movement.  I knew this was my life mission-to start a facility like this in Canada.

Chris Lesanko receiving a football from the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League Today, I have once again mapped out my future. My old friend and I have started a gym, albeit slightly different than the one we dreamed of at 16. With his help, we have started a Non-Profit business called First Steps Wellness Centre. It was the first certified Project Walk facility in Canada.

In recent years we have decided to break away from Project Walk and continue down our own path so that we could remain committed to helping people with spinal cord injuries and other neurological diabilities, while staying a non-profit and keeping costs to clients low. We are currently operating in Regina, Saskatchewan; striving to provide the best recovery methods possible for those with a spinal cord injury other neurological disabilities.

Chris Lesanko doing physiotherapy in the standing frame at FSWCChris Lesanko, Founder, 
First Steps Wellness Centre