Twelve years ago, I went into emergency with vertigo and blurred vision and the most horrible headache I’d ever even imagined. A lot of my memories from that period of time are blurry, but I do remember an earnest young doctor looking at a picture of my skull and saying, “You are bleeding into your brain. You could die.”
I did the kayaking portion of the Ski to Sea race this year with Troy as my pilot. It felt really great at first, and I know I said “I remember now, I’m good at this!” Just past the first checkpoint, I also said that it was starting to feel like work. Troy just said “Well, how about some music, then.” For those of you who don’t know me yet, I sing. I sing at any possible occasion, and really, what’s better than a captive audience?
Troy Becker who originated the organization, I believe, is to be commended most highly as a visionary humanitarian. He is very wise in his choice of staff and volunteers. As well, the equipment is carefully chosen to provide safe outdoor activities for people with disabilities who are often otherwise housebound.
I myself am a visually impaired person but that does not stop me from enjoying the outdoors. I started with CRIS three years ago and have looked forward to helping with the hikes every day.
To me, CRIS is a good place to meet people and enjoy the outdoors. It makes me feel good knowing that I am helping with a group that takes people out that can’t normally go and do a hike or bike. To me, the reward is just seeing the smile on there face when they are out doing stuff and hearing the laughter coming from them.
It was my very first official rock climbing experience, save for a climb I did in the Sacred Valley of Peru, which didn’t require ropes. The climb with the CRIS group was the real thing! Before the climb, including hike into the rock face, I felt excited, but not in that way which involves nervousness.
“Try it! They take you through ditches, over fences and up embankments” Amanda coaxed me. She was trying to entice me to try the trail-riders at an Agur Lake Camp Open House near Summerland BC. The adaptive trail-riders are operated by The Community Recreational Initiatives Society (CRIS) in neighboring Kelowna.
“With my experience at CRIS, my thoughts regarding people with disabilities is that they are as much a part of society as any able bodied person is and the effort needs to be made by everyone in our community to ensure that they feel included and valued as an individual. Although the needs of every individual may not be possible, an effort needs to be made to make our community accessible and inclusive. Before CRIS, I never really thought about the struggles or challenges people with disabilities can experience everyday in their life.”
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.
Today I went cross-country skiing with CRIS. It’s my first time on skis since I was a kid, well before my stroke and vision loss. I was excited, but I was scared, too. Snow-shoeing had felt so sturdy and secure, that strapping a couple of slippery boards to my feet seemed less than wise.
I’ve just gotten back from another amazing snowshoe trek with CRIS. I’m very tired, but still very glad I went. The weather was windy and cold near the lodge, but once we were under the trees, it was all stillness and great pillowy snow sculptures. We didn’t see any sun, but we saw lots of snow.
Today I went with CRIS up to Sovereign Lake to go snow shoeing for the first time, and it was one of those soul-opening experiences that changes your perspective forever. We climbed up a mountain road from the green-and-brown of a mild Okanagan winter, up into pristine white. There was a nippy little breeze at the lodge, but thanks to Kerri’s detailed instructions, I was well-dressed for it and warm.
It started out just as any other ordinary day-but ended anything but normal. Getting out of bed was possibly the most difficult part of participating in the event, but as I would later learn, it was well worth it. Usually, when I woke-up for school, strands of Iight were visible seeping through my drapes, but not today. It was completely dark. I knew it must have been early, but I would soon be up at the hill.
Before I knew it, I was at the starting line ready to officially begin the race. I had been knowledgeable that one of the volunteers had no experience whatsoever of cross-country skiing. Thinking of that no doubt made me a bit nervous but it was part of the excitement. Myself along with two other volunteers, Jason and Joyanne, were about to conquer a section of the race deemed extremely tough, even by experienced skiers.
This wonderful 20 minute video, produced by Alberta Parks, was filmed in Kananaskis Provincial Park. It documents the wonderful opportunities persons with disabilities now have to experience the outdoors. It features volunteers from the Community Recreational Initiatives Society (CRIS) and shows how adaptive equipment can be used to enable those with even severe impairments to gain access to wilderness sites.
The Kelowna Rockets join CRIS Adaptive Adventures to help raise awareness of the importance of inclusion and outdoor recreation for people with disabilities in our community. By attending the hike, the Kelowna Rockets help CRIS Adaptive Adventures to take out 8 Kelowna citizens with disabilities out into the beautiful Mission Creek Greenway.
A disability of any sort can feel like a closed door. Many people with disabilities find themselves isolated not only from their communities, but from the wider world around them. CRIS Adaptive Adventures aims to open that door for children, adults, and seniors who struggle with a disability. We have seen remarkable changes in the lives of our participants and in our community as we all work together to achieve a higher quality of life. Isolation leads to depression, and CRIS programs combat not only the depression but also its cause. It is very hard to feel depressed in good company on a mountain peak. Pride in accomplishment leads our participants to ever greater heights, literally.
Before Deb’s involvement with the CRIS program, Deb was severely depressed and refused to leave the confines of her home.
Deb has been an active participant with the CRIS program and events for the past 3 years. In this time she has been able to enjoy activities such as hiking, biking and kayaking.
The CRIS program for the disabled has given her a renewed sense of worth, confidence and social interaction with people. These are activities most able-bodied persons take for granted in their activities of daily living.
“We all have to push the envelope to take ourselves beyond what we think we’re capable of.”
“I got to go on a bicycle ride for the first time in my life… incredible!”
“Before [my accident] I was able to give so much to my family. Because of this weekend I’ve been able to give back to my husband…when I looked at his face he was smiling.”
Heroes, that’s what you are to my family. The time you spend organizing, packing, unpacking, setting up and down and the actual effort of the activities themselves is overwhelming to us. And in the end when we say, “How can we thank you?” You say you do it for the smiles. Well, I wasn’t just smiling, I was crying.
After 3 consecutive years of smiles and happy tears, I must say you guys have such a special place in our hearts. The gift you give these kids and families that attend our camp is beyond words. They are still on such a high. Climbing a mountain, crossing bridges and going over boulders along the way, and finally reaching that amazing destination, they felt as exhilarated as if they had climbed Mt. Everest. They had conquered!
A special Thank-You goes out to the Central Okanagan Foundation For Youth (COFFY) for their donation to CRIS to assist with providing once in a life time experiences for children with sever disabilities.
We all had a wonderful time. For Fiona it was absolutely thrilling to get up that mountain. She was extremely proud of herself. Her brothers are all mountain climbers and outdoorsy guys so she was very thrilled.
And for me it was much much more. I have always been a climber and an outdoors person until cancer and several knee surgeries knocked me over. I am still battling severe chemo fatigue. I hadn’t ever thought i would be on top of a mountain again. I can’t find enough words to express what that was for me. One big aspect is emotional healing and that it definitely was. Big time.
…It brings tears to my eyes when I think of the wonderful difference CRIS (the organization, the people, and their sponsors) has made in my life. MS is a disease that narrows one’s life inexorably with no mercy. CRIS has provided me with joy and laughter that I had thought had left my life forever…
CRIS has coordinated a Tandem Biking Program for us in the Okanagan area. They continue to maintain our collection of tandem bikes inventory on site and ensure that the pilots are trained and matched with the blind/visually impaired riders. This program has been a great benefit to our organization as it allows us to service many of our members that would not otherwise have a regular opportunity to ride in a safe environment. It allows us to provide a recreational opportunity to a variety of ages as well.
During the time I have been a participant with CRIS I have noticed several things. The CRIS people are always enthusiastic, fun-loving, respectful, and caring individuals. Troy Becker who originated the organization, I believe, is to be commended most highly as a visionary humanitarian. He is very wise in his choice of staff and volunteers. As well, the equipment is carefully chosen to serve the purpose of the CRIS organization which is to provide safe outdoor activities for people with disabilities who are often otherwise housebound.