LOGAN (AP) — Dreena Barker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991. It wasn't until about five years ago, though, that the Logan graphic artist had to start using a wheelchair on a daily basis.
"I was doing just fine; nobody knew unless I told them," Barker told The Herald Journal. "And I didn't tell many people that I had MS because you'd immediately get the recoils like, 'Are you contagious?' and things like that. So, I really didn't want to bother saying so until it was too obvious to ignore."
Barker then added, "But with this race, I'm coming out of the closet. It's like, OK, it's official."
The inaugural Rapid Transit Wheelchair Race is scheduled to take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Logan Community Recreation Center.
Founded by Barker, the race aims to raise money for a therapy pool for her, while some of the proceeds will also be donated to the National MS Society and local alternative fitness programs.
"It's an event for people with or without disabilities, and it's kind of a community thing," Barker explained. "It started out as a fundraiser because I need to build a therapy pool for myself, but then I thought, well, it ought to benefit more people than just me, so it's kind of expanded."
Barker said her neurologists have prescribed cool-water exercise therapy to help her deal with her multiple sclerosis, and the majority of therapy pools in the valley are much too warm.
"If it helps to any degree, I'm going to do it because I'm not functioning very well," Barker said.
A Logan native, Barker headed out for Los Angeles shortly after graduating from Utah State University. She spent about a decade in California doing art design, often in the entertainment industry, before moving back to Cache Valley in the 1990s to complete a master's degree at USU.
Barker then opened an art design company called the Atelier Barker Studio. Located in a hard-to-spot, pink building at the south end of Logan, the studio's workload has shrunk considerably as Barker's disease has progressed.
"My hands don't work real well," she said. "I can still do things on the computer, but I'm really slow compared to how I used to be."
"Right now, I've got one book project," Barker added. "That's about it, other than wheelchair races."
Competitors at the Rapid Transit Wheelchair Race can use either manual or power wheelchairs, and there will also be a third category for assisted racers.
Two courses will be set up on the floor of the rec center to help move things along, and participants will navigate a slalom course before having to parallel park, pop a balloon with their rear wheels, and then sprint down a straightaway to the finish line.
"It's a good education thing," said Barker, who is already trying to entice local politicians, firemen and police officers to compete. "We'll also have a safety class and a variety of different chairs there. You never know when you're going to end up in a chair, or your parents or grandparents."
- Frances Monson, wife of LDS prophet, passes away
- Mia Love announces she's officially running...
- Fly a flag for Cody: Army confirms Utah man...
- GOP delegates reject changes to nominating...
- Hundreds of volunteers tackle service...
- Mitt Romney to live in Utah — at least...
- LDS missionary 'stable' following hit-and-run...
- 1,200 gather in Salt Lake, take part in...
- Frances Monson, wife of LDS prophet,... 65
- Mitt Romney to live in Utah — at... 46
- Police say driver who hit 3 children... 27
- Mia Love announces she's officially... 24
- Utah GOP convention agenda includes... 20
- Angry Orrin Hatch: IRS guilty of... 19
- GOP delegates reject changes to... 18
- Attorney General John Swallow says he's... 16