I have been a big proponent that the trails and outdoors are for everyone. They have changed me and have given me so much that I encourage everyone I meet to spend more time outdoors. Some of us, like me up until a few years ago, make excuses not to go. For some though, getting to the trail is nearly impossible due to a disability. At Staunton State Park there was an Adaptive Recreation Fair to showcase all of the groups trying to clear the path to the trail for all who want to explore.
The Adaptive Recreation Fair was over a weekend in June and I was able to go and hear about some of these amazing foundations. I wanted to share some of those stories with you today. Each one of these groups had a common goal and that was to get more people outdoors and they were all very passionate about it. Staunton itself has a Track Chair program that I will talk about more at a later date but I wanted to share some of the other amazing groups with you.
Fishing Has No Boundaries
Fishing Has No Boundaries is a national program and the Colorado Springs chapter was at Staunton for the event. This organization helps anglers who have disabilities with adaptive equipment and culminates with a huge event where they host persons with disabilities, friends and family out on the lake for fishing and boat rides. The Colorado event for 2022 is at Pueblo State Park on September 17th and 18th.
I was able to speak to Dan, the chapter chair, and he just lit up when talking about the event. He told me that some people fish and some people just love being able to be out on a boat, some for the first time ever on the water! The adaptive fishing experience includes adaptive reels that are powered and have other modifications depending on the amount of mobility.
Dan told me that they are always looking for volunteers (with or without a boat) or financial donations. There is an entry fee for participants but there are a limited amount of scholarships available. If you would like more information on how you can help or to participate head over to csfhnb.org.
Paradox Sports is a non profit that offers both indoor and outdoor adaptive climbing experiences and has been around helping climbers with disabilities get back to climbing since 2007. Based in the Boulder area, Paradox has events throughout the Front Range of Colorado. All outings that Paradox host are instructed by certified American Mountain Guides Association guides.
Paradox has also authored and published the first and only reference on adaptive climbing, called Adaptive Climbing, which is a manual for instructors and climbers. A very unique opportunity for those with disabilities to get back to do something they loved or to try something new. For more information you can check Paradoxsports.org.
The Traveling Gnomes
The Traveling Gnomes offer inclusive, accessible, and sustainable travel experiences locally and globally for neurodivergent and disabled adventure-seekers. They serve kids, teens and adults ages 13 and up for day trips and ages 16 and up for overnight travel trips.
The Traveling Gnomes goal is to help people to overcome situations that might be new to them. This hopefully will lead to personal growth for the participants and lead them to feel more confident in their communities.
They have taking groups to Costa Rica, Anchorage, Seattle and more and are looking for volunteers and chaperones. If you are interested you can find more information at Thetravelinggnomes.org.
On a side note, the ambassadors that were at the fair representing the Traveling Gnomes were great and I spent a lot of time just chatting them up and had a great time!
The Lockwood Foundation
The Lockwood Foundation wins the award for the biggest contingent of volunteers! The large group was also full of energy and passion about their purpose. That purpose is to get more people out on the trails! The Lockwood Foundation has specially designed chairs with a single wheel that operate like a pull cart. This allows the chair and the rider to get to even more places.
Each year the Lockwood takes one rider to the top of Colorado’s tallest mountain, 14,440 foot Mount Elbert. In order to do this the group needs a lot of volunteers, 55-70. The foundation also does other events throughout Colorado during the year. They meet with each rider candidate to make sure the rider gets the best experience to their comfort level before each hike.
I spoke to founder Jeffrey Lockwood and asked him what makes the trips so special and he said the people that they can take on the trails usually say that the answer is two parts. “Access and inclusion. Access to be able to come somewhere you were told you can’t go or somewhere that was taken away.” He continued that being part of the community with volunteers on the hike gave the riders a great feeling of inclusion. He said the most common response he gets is, “The hike was good but the people were incredible”.
If you are interested in joining the group of volunteers or to learn more about the Lockwood Foundation visit thelockwoodfoundation.org
Staunton Track Chairs
The Staunton Track Chair program is what got me interested in this event in the first place. I knew of the program but I had never seen the chairs out. Then, on a hike this year, I ran into a gentleman who was using the chair along with his wife and a volunteer. He had ALS but said that he and his wife used to get outdoors a lot years ago and now they were able to again. He seemed extremely happy at being out on the trails again.
Staunton has several chairs and has participated in over 1000 rides since 2017 when the program began. There is no cost for the riders to use the chairs and there are several options of trails to choose from at the park. The riders can even head down to the ponds and do some fishing.
Each trip is also accompanied by a volunteer and you can find more information about the program by visiting this link. I will also have more on the Track Chair program in a later post.
An Amazing Experience
I had such a great time meeting all of these wonderful groups over the two days of the Adaptive Recreation Fair at Staunton. The fair provided free rides to those who were there that were interested in trying out some of the chairs. I have never seen bigger smiles on the faces of people getting on a track chair or the Lockwood chairs for the first time. Well, the volunteers smiles might have been a close second.
Everyone had such an amazing time at the fair. There was grilling, people were trying out the different gear and there was such a positive energy from everyone involved. It was really a great experience that I hope they do again soon so more people can attend.
One of the volunteers told a story about a gentleman who was doing some adaptive fishing at Staunton. The man was reserved at the start, just staring at the water. Then he was given an adaptive rod with a powered reel. He pushed it on, saw and heard the line coming in and yelled out, “I’m fishing!”
As the volunteer told the story of this man my eyes welled up with joy hearing the excitement that a man I had never met had in doing something so often taken for granted. That is the power of these groups and the adaptive recreation community and the joy that the outdoors can bring when everyone is included.
More from The Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Screw it, I’m Trying” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.