Outdoors for All

The drive to Outdoors for All was drenched in sunshine last week. Temperatures still on the chilly side, but spring felt around the corner. The bridge took me over the lake and past the University of Washington. Tucked in the Sand Point neighborhood were the temporary offices. A typically looking office building with three stories. Up to the third floor the stairs led and through a door. The second door on the left side of what felt like a dormitory hallway took me into the offices. The greeting was kind from a woman seated at the conference table looking up from her computer. Within moment a kind gentlemen came out to greet my arrival. Instead of shaking hands, we bumped elbows, in this new world we have found for ourselves. His office provided us with plenty of space. The spacious desk occupied one corner with natural light streaming in from the window to its right. He sat in a swivel desk chair with my chair along the opposing wall. Keeping our social distance, again, as we find ourselves in unchartered circumstances. My portfolio was opened with a writing utensil in hand and the conversation took flight. As the meeting unfolded, we ventured into the uniqueness of this cool organization. I had been looking forward to learning about Outdoors for All for some time.

Recreation has always been an important part of my life. Growing up while playing in the neighborhood with friends. Learning to ski on the road in front of our house after a snow storm. Learning to play golf during a family vacation. Learning to ride a bike on the flat section of our driveway. These were some of the activities discovered that have lasted throughout my life and will be part of my future. Even with the ability to participate in these, there have been others shied away from. Outdoors for All has activities that hadn’t seemed possible for me to participate. One of those major examples was discussed as part of our meeting. Growing up there was always a fear of the water. Even today, the idea of swimming in water where the bottom can’t be touched causes anxiety. So, from my perspective kayaking was out of the question during my life. The fear of losing balance in a kayak and turning over, has kept me out of them. While anytime they are seen on the roof of a car, I’m mesmerized by how fun they look. Kayaking has been one of the activities for Outdoors for All, using assistive devices to stabilize the kayak. Something else new to me was the double person kayak helps provide more stability. Who knows, maybe kayaking will be in my future.

We went on to discuss other activities Outdoors for All has available. Another recreational activity seeming out of my scope has always been rock climbing. Looking at a rock climbing wall has always been fascinating. All the hand and foot holds used to scale a wall inside. The creativity it might require to up and back down. Anytime peering at one of those walls, all the ropes seemed pretty cool as well. Seemingly there to catch any kind of misstep and provide the opportunity to try again. This meeting was my second trip to meet with Outdoors for All. During the first meeting, we heard a great story of rock climbing. A father and his son had signed up for rock climbing recreation with the organization. Which was one of the great options Outdoors for All has for their participants. You can participate in a recreational activity with your family, which would seem to provide comfort. As we move back to the father and son team working on rock climbing. The father was the principal climber for the recreation. One of the things his son was doing in assisting was tying the knots for his dad. The story provided such warmth upon being told. Many things came to mind about the bonding of a father and his son. How much they both probably experience while working together as a team. And for the son, the emotion that undoubtedly comes with helping his father reach a goal. It was an amazing example of the impact recreation can have on a family.

Sometimes people haven’t been exposed to the possibility of recreation. With cerebral palsy being part of my life, this can occur. Where I haven’t understood all the possibilities open to my exploration. As our meeting drew to the end, there was something else the gentleman across from me had in mind. He logged into his computer. While doing so, he spoke of taking recreational equipment out into the community. Gathering a group together and showing them what was possible for them. In the case of the video, Outdoors for All had loaded up different types of bicycles. From three-wheel bikes to a handcycle, the organization has access to all kinds of cycles. So, they loaded up many options and went to a gymnasium. The video showed different types of cycles lining the wall of the gymnasium. With staff and volunteers around to help kids find the cycle working best for them. Kids of all abilities came rushing through the doors with excitement. Even some whom may have never thought it possible for them to ride. They were set up with a cycle working for their individual ability. Traffic cones dictated the course of riding inside the gym and they were set free. It was amazing to watch the smiles on the faces passing the camera. Watching the pure joy of accomplishing something that some might not have foreseen. The organization making such an impact through showing someone they can ride.

Being drawn to Outdoors for All was an interesting process. For some time now, we have been looking for organizations in the community providing services for people with special needs. The concept beginning in part through my ongoing work with a psychologist. Dr. Montgomery has always been one to suggest ideas for looking into as my endeavors move forward. One day in his office we were discussing an organization that had just been visited. When out of somewhere he remembered Outdoors for All. An organization, which at that time, I had heard nothing about. Before Dr. Montgomery had become a psychologist, he had been a school teacher, teaching in the area of special education. During that time, he also taught skiing to kids with special needs with an organization called Outdoors for All. Dr. Montgomery didn’t know if they were still around, but thought it a good avenue to walk down. The idea was instantly appealing and with my interest in skiing, the research began. It didn’t take long after that appointment to find Outdoors for All. Then, it wasn’t long after that our meeting with the organization was scheduled. Learning they provide many more options than skiing. In addition to skiing, I learned of Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, yoga, snowboarding, along with cycling and rock climbing. Downhill skiing was the activity getting me into the organization. It was fun to learn of the tethers used to help someone learn to ski. Or, using the option of a sit-ski for the enjoyment of moving down the mountain. Recreation can be enjoyed by all and Outdoors for All makes it happen.

One of the most fascinating parts of our meeting was looking at numbers. Numbers being an area to which I admittedly don’t excel. However, these percentages intrigued me while preparing for our meeting. Numbers placing a quick glance perspective on the impact of Outdoors for All. Of the participants of the organization 84% felt more independent, 97% had their quality of life enriched, 96% higher levels of confidence, and 90% created more friendships. The impact has been great when looking through the numbers. These show the positive role Outdoors for All has played throughout their forty-year history. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet with them. They show how important recreation can be to the emotional health of someone. Cerebral palsy seems to combated more productively through movement. While working out in a gym setting can be good. It can also be limiting in some ways and become mundane at times. Getting into a recreational sport can provide purpose behind the work out sessions in the gym. Providing something to provide goals of improvement. Some activity to fuel the workout with purpose. For me, the goal of getting better at my recreational activities helps motivate my workout. Outdoors for All provides those activities that can keep us motivated throughout life. Leaving us with the desire to continue taking part.

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