As we came to a clearing in the trees, the hiking group stood still, mesmerized by the glimmering light. The sun was shining is such a way that it allowed the Indian Arm to appear as a sea of diamonds, sparkling as the waves swelled before us.

“Some people climb Mt. Seymour,” Kieran said as he broke the silence, “but we’re climbing Mt. Everest, and Power To Be is our oxygen.”

It was in this moment that I realized the impact being created.

Kieran Neuenfeldt is one of numerous participants who have joined the North Vancouver Power To Be monthly hiking group. They explore a variety of trails along the North Shore, ranging from casual ocean side strolls to more dynamic mountainous trails. Kieran’s statement was referring to the challenges that he and his fellow hikers experience on a daily basis due to acquired brain injuries (ABIs) and barriers surrounding mental health.

Once the initial silence was broken, more voices rose from the group as people expressed their personal challenges regarding their barriers. As the trees gently blew in the background, insecurities lifted with the wind. The group was opening up to one another in a way they hadn’t on previous hikes. They were sharing as friends who felt safe within this wild space.

The ABI monthly hike has transformed into an opportunity to socialize with folks facing similar obstacles and find support from their fellow peers. It has been humbling to watch a group of initial strangers break past social barriers and become unified within their experiences. Through these programs, we are constantly reminded that nature can be our greatest facilitator.

Allowing for complete openness and moments of deep reflection amongst the wisdom of the forest, participants are able to step outside of the confines of their barriers. Nature is a neutral ground; a space that welcomes all abilities to come and explore.

–  Story shared by Andrea Macdonald, program facilitator