Last year, Power To Be’s Head of Programs and Services, Pete Carson, and I were approached with an opportunity to visit a number of organizations in Colorado who operate in very similar ways to Power To Be, with the intention to learn, share, and collaborate.
Relationships with the organizations we visited were formed years ago by our Director of Programs and Impact, Carinna Kenigsberg, who supported us with this unique opportunity and initiated communication which ended with some beautiful moments of connection.
Over three nights and two days at the beginning of November 2022, we were able to visit three organizations and one State Park, starting high in the Rocky Mountains. After arriving in Denver and picking up our vehicle, we made the choice to start the trip in the furthest location and work our way back to Denver. Our first stop was in the town of Breckenridge, at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) (www.boec.org) where we stayed in a cabin overnight. We arrived at 9:30pm on a cloudless night with the moon in full glow, fresh snow under-foot, and slept in cots around the greatest wood stove we’d ever seen.
We met with Steven Rubin, Wilderness Program Manager, who gave us a tour of all the sites and operations that BOEC offers. Like Power To Be, BOEC has a large site called the Wilderness Campus where a large number of programs are offered, including rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking on an old reservoir, camping, team building, and navigating a ropes courses, to name a few. One of the many aspects of what BOEC offered at this location was an accessible high ropes course which allowed for wheelchairs, a feature that excited us greatly. There was also a large lodge on site which made for a great office, storage, and accommodations for many of their programs, and a cabin close by for the large number of interns they hire for the year, most coming from a Recreation Therapy pathway.
After exploring their Wilderness Campus, we drove to BOEC’s main office location on the other side of town. Their office building was recently revamped and is incredibly well organized. This is also where they stored their larger pieces of equipment. They had what felt like a barn sized storage space, big enough to get trailers loaded with paddleboards and kayaks, all their whitewater rafting gear, and adaptive cycles inside. Then we got to explore the town of Breckenridge and visit their Keystone site, an office located metres away from a ski lift, and packed with various sit-skis and snow-riders. Through 2020-2021 BOEC ran over 4500 programs, serving almost 1400 people, and this was low in comparison to their typical 10,000 programs a year through their Adaptive Ski and Snowboard, Wilderness, and Internship programs.
After filling our hearts and minds with our friends in Breckenridge, we connected with March Petzinger, the Mountain Program Manager at the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) (www.nscd.org) at their Winter Park location to find out more about the organization and their gear uses and adaptations. March was a fountain of knowledge and happily shared the history of NSCD and what various programs they offer throughout the year. This was pretty much where adaptive skiing started! We were shown their impressive arsenal of tools to get people into the hills and down the slopes and all the additional tools that were designed and built to suit their needs and the challenges they had faced. Many of the creative adaptive solutions were made by a former student at the School of the Mines near Denver, which makes accessing nature so much easier, whether it was on a ski hill, or a saddle support for horseback riding. We were also made aware of a program in a State Park just south of Denver which piqued our interest, which we made time to visit at the end of our trip.
Feeling very full after an incredible day in the mountains, we got to spend the following day at a lower altitude in and around Denver visiting with the team at Adaptive Adventures (www.adaptiveadventures.org). Chelsea Elder, Chris Wiegland, and Gilbert Vasquez, along with volunteers Emily and John, sat with us and chatted about our similarities and past connections, and then showed us around their operation. Adaptive Adventures has two offices, with the main office in Denver, and the other in Illinois, yet their programs are all mobile running out of trailers which means they can come from different locations depending on the type of program they’re leading. They also have mobile operations spread all over the Mainland US and Puerto Rico, which brings its many rewards and challenges. Most of the programs offered by Adaptive Adventures are water-based like kayaking, paddleboarding, and rafting. One of the many wonderful things that stood out from our visit with this team was their creativity with building adaptive tools that can support people getting out into nature. This included an ingenious one-armed device for canoe and paddleboard paddling which attaches to the shoulder of the paddler, PVC tube-built seats and supports for paddling, and the creative use of the trailer systems they have. While sitting together with everyone for lunch, the real depth of collaboration came about, with plans for opportunities to work together with similar groups and have experiences like paddling in the nearby San Juan Islands and have work exchanges for our program teams to learn from each other.
March of NSCD told us about one final stop, Staunton State Park, which is about an hour south of Denver. At this park they have a Track-Chair program. This is a specialized off-road chair called the Action Trackchair (www.actiontrackchair.com) which is a wheelchair with caterpillar tracks that can go almost anywhere. At Staunton State Park, they have five of these chairs which are completely free to rent on a first-come, first-serve basis, and there are some dedicated trails in the park for Track-Chair use. Unfortunately, the program had just finished for the season so we were unable to try one out, but we took advantage of the time and went for a quick exploration of one of the easier trails which was open. We were able to find positive comparisons between the State Park and our very own CRD parks, and ideas for our site at Prospect Lake.
All in all, the opportunity to connect and build community with these organizations has inspired us and stoked a fire within to keep working with these organizations further, and also build upon on our own gear and program offerings and plan for the future. Power To Be is still growing!