Community Spotlight: All Out Adventures
It’s not uncommon for me to find myself with my eyes welling up with tears at work. As the Executive Director of All Out Adventures, a Northampton-based nonprofit organization that provides outdoor recreation programming to people of all ages with disabilities, I am often involved in moments in people’s lives where they reclaim a skill or an experience that has had deep meaning to them. When people with disabilities realize they can ride a bike again, or paddle a kayak, or glide across the ice on skates, there’s often a crystal clear moment of awakening, of pure joy, and of the recognition of a future that is full of possibility. Sometimes those moments happen during our programs. Sometimes those moments happen at the earliest stages of contact when a family member or friend learns about our programs.
Last month, I spoke with a woman who was a friend to a family with a 10 year-old boy who is recovering from an acquired brain injury and a bone marrow transplant. Because of the need to protect his immune system, the boy is not able to be in close proximity to anyone who is not family. She described to me how the boy lives on a cul de sac and spends much of his day watching out the window as the neighborhood children play. I had to take a moment to catch my breath as I thought of how hard that must be for the boy and for his family. But the true joy of my job? I then got to spend time discussing the opportunities this summer could bring. While the boy’s disability has affected his balance and his ability to walk or run, this boy could come kayaking with us. We have a recumbent trike he could ride so he could bike with his family. He could go canoeing and fishing. And in the fall, he and his family could camp with us in the cabins at Mohawk Trail State Forest.
Using outdoor recreation as a vehicle, All Out Adventures works to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. We do not segregate people with disabilities into their own programs. Instead, they participate alongside their able-bodied siblings, parents, spouses, and friends. We offer our programs for no or very low cost to ensure that finances are not a barrier to participation. And we modify equipment and programming to serve people of all abilities.
This September (2018), we will host our 12th Annual Kayak-a-thon, our annual fundraiser where we kayak from Sunderland or Hatfield to Northampton on the Connecticut River. It’s a true community event, involving people with and without disabilities who are passionate about inclusion and who love the outdoors. It’s an event that is open to the community, and community support is what makes our programming possible. Open to kayaks, canoes, and Stand-up Paddleboards, participants commit to raising $150/person or $500 as part of a 4-member team. My older son participated in his first Kayak-a-thon at age 4. And having come to programs and attended Kayak-a-thons for years now, he thinks nothing of watching someone transfer from a kayak to a wheelchair or walking up the gangway with the assistance of crutches.
At All Out Adventures we believe that the outdoors belong to us all, and we are committed to ensuring access to outdoor recreation to people of all ages and all abilities. For more information about the Kayak-a-thon and to learn more about our programs, we invite you to visit us at: www.alloutadventures.org. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions. We want to ensure that all members of our community can enjoy the great outdoors and the healthy lifestyles afforded from participation in outdoor recreation programs.
Executive Director, All Out Adventures