As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks this year. The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, is currently touring the country to connect folks to their local national parks by getting them into canoes and paddling through the great American waterways. The Canoemobile visited Portland, Maine for the very first time and set off in Casco Bay with a canoe-ful of Toads from the Toad&Co Freeport Store. Our general manager, Ponch Membreño (you’ll see him in the red plaid shirt), paddled with the Wilderness Inquiry team and local families and adults with visual impairments and cognitive disabilities. Originally posted on the Wilderness Inquiry blog, this is Ponch’s Canoemobile story.
My time with Canoemobile was amazing. The energy of the crew was infectious. I felt the dedication to the mission and happiness for the work you are doing. The crew members are such great ambassadors for Wilderness Inquiry and for the type of work. I can only imagine folks all across the country becoming inspired to challenge themselves to commit more time to being outside and helping others who face greater challenges.
I’m so happy I was able to connect Canoemobile with Momentum and Creative Trails [local agencies that provide support services to adults with intellectual disabilities]. Many were nervous but their staff and the Canoemobile staff did an amazing job building the participants’ confidence, helping them rise to the challenge of canoeing.
I was particularly struck by one participant who came in a wheelchair and was nervous at first. She brought her own seat and needed a team to lift her out of her wheelchair and into the canoe.
I previously led wilderness trips for a living, so I know the trust the participants place in their leaders.
But this was a whole new level.
I actually teared up at the fact that she was going to have this great experience and the immense trust she placed in the Canoemobile leaders.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like to let go of all that fear, nervousness, anxiety, and excitement and have some people you met 15 minutes ago pick you up from your wheelchair on the dock and place you into a boat that is already floating in the water. And the whole time she was encouraging another participant who was more nervous than she was.
Again, I am so impressed with the entire idea of Canoemobile and equally impressed with the professionalism and energy of the crew. I really hope we cross paths again.
All photos courtesy Gretchen Powers.