There is no denying that the Okanagan is a spectacular place to go outside and play. People come here from all over the world to do just that.
While most of us enjoy this wealth of recreational opportunities, we rarely stop to consider whether all the people who live and vacation here are actually included in the fun.
For example, if a spinal injury caused you to lose the use of your legs, would your hiking days be over? If your child was born with Cerebral Palsy, would he or she be able to join other children for ride bikes or camping trips?
Mary Statham can think of no good reasons why a disability should hold someone back from enjoying the outdoors. Statham is legally blind as the result of a stroke she had at age thirty. The author of the fantasy novel Spoken is a long-time participant in adaptive outdoor recreation programs run by CRIS Adaptive Adventures.
For Statham, the non-profit organization is about much more than outdoor activities for people with disabilities. It’s about confidence that is nurtured by people who believe in your potential.
“Being with these people who automatically knew I could do anything had a huge impact on my recovery,” says Statham. “The experience has totally changed my opinion of risk. There is huge value in being able to push myself and find out what I can do, as opposed to defining myself by what I can’t do.”
What she has done already is impressive. Currently working on a sequel to her novel, along with other writing projects, Statham can’t emphasize enough the impacts that the volunteers at CRIS Adaptive Adventures have on other people.
She explains that people with disabilities can end up isolated or restricted to the indoors, where the world begins to “feel like the shape of a room.”
Organizations like CRIS Adaptive Adventures expand boundaries for these individuals, and open the imagination to limitless possibilities.
“I don’t always think they (volunteers) understand how widespread the benefits are. Because these people helped me with my confidence, I started doing music therapy for seniors (Statham is a classically trained pianist). I wrote a book. I don’t walk around scared. Instead of seeing the world as my enemy, I see the world as my adventure.”
It takes many volunteers, reaching out to others, for organizations like CRIS Adaptive Adventures to offer activities like hiking, cycling, kayaking, geocaching, cross-country skiing and Sherpa hiking. In 2005, Statham was part of a week-long journey through the world-renowned Bowron Lakes in the Cariboo Mountain Range, an experience she treasures. She hopes that more long trips will be possible with the support of a growing volunteer team and funding support from the community.
Katie Johnston, Executive Director for CRIS Adaptive Adventures, knows that volunteers can have a huge impact.
“CRIS volunteers replace isolation with friendship, and disability with possibility. Together, volunteers and participants improve emotional, mental and physical health, create social bonds and experience the wonders of the natural world while conquering doubts to move beyond expectations.”
Change starts here, where courage and compassion make our communities great for everyone. CRIS Adaptive Adventures is a United Way Community Partner Agency. To find out how you can be part of change, visit www.unitedwaycso.com.
More information on CRIS Adaptive Adventures is available at www.adaptiveadventures.ca.