“Just because some people can’t walk, doesn’t mean they can’t paraglide,” said Josh Dueck, board member and peer mentor for the Live it! Love it! Foundation.
That’s the kind of mentality and energy behind the organization’s Freewheel Whistler Adaptive Adventure Camp that took place over the past week.
The fully subsidized camp provided an opportunity for twelve participants, most of whom are dealing with recent spinal cord injuries, to spend four days in Whistler trying activities that fall outside the realm of traditional “wheelchair sports.” The adrenaline inducing activities included bungee jumping with Whistler Bungee, zip lining with Wildplay Whistler, kayaking on Alta Lake and taking a wheelchair paragliding demo.
The adaptive adventure camp also encouraged participants to connect with one another and try to work through their emotions and trials of dealing with a spinal cord injury. The camp hosted mental training workshops with a certified sports psychologist, cookouts and presentations from experienced adaptive adventurers and para-athletes such as Dueck, who won a silver medal in the 2010 Paralympic Games in Whistler.
“One of our goals for the camp is to try to bring balance to people dealing with a spinal cord injury,” said Dueck. “When I went through my injury, I was fortunate to have such a supportive group around me, but I know many don’t have that same privilege. By meeting people going through similar ordeals, I hope they will feel less segregated and instead learn that we can do any activity just as other people. Adventure is a great way to change their outlook on life and open up the possibility of living a normal life after a spinal cord injury.”
The Live It! Love It! Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to empower through adventure and provide outdoor recreation opportunities for the disabled. The organization was founded by professional freeskier Izzy Lynch. She was first inspired to develop adventure camps for the disabled when she watched a close friend struggle to recover from a debilitating accident.
“The idea for creating adventure camps was brought on when a close friend of mine became paralyzed from the chest down,” described Lynch. “He was always a bit of an adventure junkie but after his accident he became really frustrated when he thought he wouldn’t be able to participate in sports like he used to. He just didn’t have that outlet anymore. This opened my eyes to the limitations that people are forced to deal with when they are disabled. I wanted to change that.”
With such positive support from camp participants and the community, Lynch is working on expanding her adaptive programs into other communities aside from Whistler.
“I’m currently working on developing an adaptive ski program in Revelstoke. It’s such a popular ski town and there is a definite need to provide disabled ski programs. Right now I’m getting feedback from the disabled community and Whistler’s Adaptive Ski Program to find out what worked and didn’t work so I can get the project up and running in Revelstoke.”
Lynch hopes to launch the Revelstoke adaptive ski program in January 2013.
For more information about Live it! Love it! and their programs or to donate to the foundation, visit www.liveitloveit.org.