Canoemobile Update: Portland, ME

 
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. 

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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.

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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.

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All photos courtesy Gretchen Powers.

Canoemobile Update: Santa Barbara

 

On a misty Tuesday morning, Team Toad made our way down to the Santa Barbara Harbor to hit the high seas with the Canoemobile! As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation earlier this spring to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks in 2016. The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, has been touring the country to get folks into 24ft Voyageur canoes to paddle through our national waterways. We were lucky enough to have the Canoemobile come through our hometown and take us and our friends from Alpha Resource Center out onto the water for two unforgettable days. Alpha is a local organization committed to empowering individuals, supporting families and building a community that values the contribution of all people, regardless of ability.

Morning and afternoon fleets of Voyageur canoes lit out for the open ocean over the course of two days as Toads, W.I. crew and about 50 Alpha clients mingled with harbor seals, paddled with sea lions and waved at tourists along the Pacific coast. For many Alpha clients (and even a few Toads), it was their first time in a canoe. Nerves gave way to giggles as our canoes left the dock and sea salt from wayward paddles hit our faces.

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Paddling across the ocean together, we pointed at birds and laughed at the waves, smiled as the sun peeked through the clouds, and sat mesmerized while pelicans dove head first into the water. Strangers just a few hours earlier, here we were, people from different backgrounds, upbringings and abilities, who had all come together for the exact same thing: joy.

It was an afternoon that will stick with us forever. Some Alpha clients found a new love of paddling (a few even came back for multiple paddle outs!) while others were simply proud of themselves for conquering their fears. In addition to making some quality new friends, we Toads were reminded that the work we do every day is so much more than making clothes, and that feels pretty darn good.

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Thank you SO much to the folks at Wilderness Inquiry and the Canoemobile crew who are changing lives everyday, and thanks to the folks at Alpha Resource Center who came out to paddle with us (check out their video of the event below!). If you’d like to volunteer with the Canoemobile (and trust us, you definitely want to!), check when the Canoemobile will be in your area and click on the link to get involved. Bon voyage!

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Canoemobile Update: Detroit, MI

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. Rose Conry, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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After a great week in Dallas, TX, the Canoemobile Team rolled into Detroit, MI to get on the water at River Raisin National Battlefield. Special Olympics Michigan athletes and their families embraced the peacefulness of an overcast Sunday morning, paddling quietly along the marshy mouth of the the Huron. For many, it was their first canoe experience, and several athletes were nervous initially. The boats, 24-foot cedar-stripped voyageur canoes made the ride more unusual.

During our quiet river paddle, the Special Olympians spotted fish jumping out of the water, ospreys, cormorants, and terns diving for breakfast. Herons waded in for their next meal while swans and geese guarded their young. A ranger from the River Raisin National Battlefield shared historical and natural knowledge about the area. He explained how the U.S. came to lose Detroit in the War of 1812 and what invasive species threaten native plants and animals in the area.

As the program wrapped up, the ranger explained River Raisin’s summer kayaking program. Many participants expressed eagerness to join the park service for another paddling adventure. I want to come back for it, too.

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Canoemobile Update: Berkeley, CA

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. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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Canoemobile had a beautiful afternoon of paddling at an adaptive canoe day in Berkeley. We were thrilled to be working with the enthusiastic Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) crew to help introduce the Berkeley disability community to Voyageur canoeing along the shores of Berkeley Aquatic Park.

Over 50 people of the Berkeley community came out to paddle in canoes, many of whom were first time paddlers. Throughout the day, we could hear many laughs from shore, clear evidence that many paddlers were having a good time on the water.

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A very special thank you to BORP staff for recruitment of participants and use of their variety of adaptive gear, lifts, and ADA accessible docks. Canoemobile has proven to be accessible to even more people and be able to support Wilderness Inquiry’s mission.

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Canoemobile Update: Dallas, TX

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. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, offers up the latest update:

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Young, old and even a few canines paddled the lake on a sunny, 70 degree day in Dallas, TX. About 40 adults with disabilities from MetroCare and Project Search learned about water safety in small groups, practicing communication and problem-solving skills. After learning the ropes (and oars), we loaded up the canoes and hit the open waterways! 

I always love that part. Even though I’ve been on the canoe hundreds of times, seeing it through the eyes of first-timers makes me feel like it’s my first time too. Smiles abound, splashes happen and glimpsing a fish or a diving bird is always a treat. After getting back to port, a sixty-year-old man, who paddled again for the first time in decades, said it was the most fun he had in years. He was beaming from ear to ear. 

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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Ambassador Profile: Adreon and the Canoemobile

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There’s nothing like your first time hitting the water, and we think everyone should have that experience. So 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. In celebration of the National Park Service centennial, the Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, will connect folks to the national parks by getting them into canoes and out onto America’s great rivers and lakes. Adreon Morgan, one of the Canoemobile’s trusty captains, will be taking over the Toad blog to relay tales from the trail…err, waterway! Take it away Adreon…

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Introducing people to the joy of the great outdoors is my work and my passion. I believe people of all backgrounds and abilities should have access to the natural world. With Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile, I have been able to introduce people with disabilities and underserved students to their local waterways in over 20 cities coast-to-coast.

Canoemobile visits some of the busiest cities and industrial waterways in the United States. Most of the people riding in these canoes have never explored the great National Parks and state parks within their communities. Paddling in a 24-foot Voyageur canoe helps many overcome fears of water, experience the importance of teamwork, and reclaim these beautiful urban waterways.

This spring tour will be my fourth Canoemobile tour. Each boat ride has been special. We load up into canoes, learn to paddle together, create epic boat names to unite us as a team, and then explore local ecosystems from a new perspective.

My favorite part is watching the participants step out of their comfort zones and become empowered. I love watching nerves disappear with each paddle stroke. Soon after we launch from the dock, crying transforms into laughter and team chanting. It’s a beautiful transformation to watch. I am honored to be apart of this life-changing experience for so many people. Time to hit the road!

– Adreon

For information on when the Canoemobile will be in your area and how to get involved, check the Canoemobile schedule!

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The Canoemobile

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There’s nothing like your first time in a national park and we think everyone should have that experience. So as a part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we’re giving a grant to the National Park Foundation to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks in 2016. How do they do it? Via the Canoemobile.

What exactly is the Canoemobile? Well it’s just what it sounds like – it’s a van that pulls a fleet of 24-foot Voyager canoes across the country. In celebration of the National Park System’s centennial, the Canoemobile, operated by Wilderness Inquiry, will connect folks to the national parks by getting them into canoes and out onto America’s great rivers and lakes. Purple Mountains Majesty for all!

The tour kicks off on March 1, 2016 and runs through November 2016. The Canoemobile will be making stops across the country all summer, so keep an eye out for them. We’ve already got a handful of stops scheduled – places like Big Thicket National Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Golden Gate National Recreational Area– but we’ll be adding many more stops as we get rolling.

Stay tuned for updates on the Canoemobile’s whereabouts and tour schedule!