From the desk of Jacquelyn Lowman from the University of Maine at Presque Isle regarding an adaptive recreation project for Northern Maine and parts of Canada.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"Dear Folks,

We wanted to update you on what we’ve been able to accomplish over the summer toward our project.  It’s been a very productive time, building support.   Thanks to the help of you and others, we’re on track to start offering adaptive recreation programming this winter!  We’re over the moon with excitement about that.

We wanted to fill you in on our milestones and on what lies ahead.  So here goes.

We were very successful with our fundraising.  We started off with a great kickstart from a Go Fund Me campaign when Saint and Jacqui went whitewater rafting.

Then Bryan and Jacqui requested support from some of the major employers in Aroostook County.  Cary Medical Center, Katahdin Trust, MMG Insurance, and TAMC all very generously answered the call.  A number of smaller employers also stepped up with support.  Caribou Rotary has also made a generous donation.  This has exceeded our fondest hopes.  Once we redeem all the pledges, we will be in good shape to move forward for this year.

Bryan and Jacqui also have spoken with a number of community service organizations to raise awareness and build support.  Jacqui spoke with the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.  Bryan and Jacqui spoke with the Caribou Kiwanis and Rotary, the Presque Isle Kiwanis and Rotary, and a regional group of the Special Olympics. All the groups were very hospitable and wanted to know what they could do to help.  We asked them to reach out to those they know who could benefit from the adaptive recreation.  We also asked them to start thinking about volunteering.  Steve Richard has generously offered the use of two accessible vans to help transport people to and from their lessons.

The upper level of the Nordic Heritage Center is now accessible!  Many thanks to the members of the Nordic Heritage Sport Club for making this possible.  They ordered a load of crusher dust at the end of July and by the time of the Nordic Trail Festival, had built a splendid ramp all along the edge of the building.  Jacqui tried it out during the Nordic Trail Festival and it works fabulously.  This is the first time that she has been able to get into the upper level reliably on her own.

We’ve continued to work closely with Maine Adaptive.  They’ve been so impressed by what we in the county have been able to accomplish in such a short time.  I think that they wondered if we could pull this together for next winter.  We always knew that we could, though.

So the plan is that we will roll out our adaptive programming in January.  We plan to offer our free lessons (lasting about two hours, depending on participant strength and skill and the weather conditions) on Friday afternoons.  After the lessons, everyone involved, including participants, volunteers, family, and friends, will gather together in the upper level of the main lodge for a hot meal, savoring the camaraderie and view.

Maine Adaptive has agreed to do the screening of participants and volunteers.  With volunteers, there is a general type of application, a form to indicate when they’d like to volunteer, and a waiver of liability and media coverage.  All of the forms are available online at the Maine Adaptive website.  We want to make it possible for everyone who wishes to be involved to do so.  Thus, even if you can give one hour a month, we will still find a good fit for you.  Our initiative needs a countywide effort.  Certainly we need people who can ski.  But we also need people who will snowshoe (I am told that if you can walk, you can snowshoe).  And we need people to greet people, to help them with their equipment, to manage equipment (keep track of it, make sure that it is in good condition, waxed, etc.).  We need people to help with the hot meal after the lessons.  We need people to reach out with communication.  We need people to be sure that the paths are cleared and to work on other maintenance tasks.  I’m leaving many possibilities out, I’m sure.  But you get the idea.

The participants have the same type of paperwork with an additional piece—a medical form to be completed by their doctors to discuss whether they have restrictions to participate and if so, what.  As we continue to speak and raise awareness, we will have some of the applications printed out to make things a little easier for people who might not have reliable Internet at home.

As I mentioned, Maine Adaptive will handle the paperwork for us, which is terrific. They will schedule lessons for our participants so that we don’t have too many people at a time.  They will have our volunteer paperwork on file, but it will be up to us to coordinate our volunteers.

Maine Adaptive will be providing the special adaptive training.  Barbara Fiore, the Maine Adaptive Nordic Skiing Coordinator, will be coming to Aroostook County, probably after Christmas, to provide a two-day training.  We anticipate that all willing volunteers will not be able to make that training.  So, in addition, a few of us will travel to Sunday River to get more intensive training so that we can handle programming and provide training when Barbara cannot be with us.  (She will travel to Nordic once a month during our ski season to supervise and lend support.)  And when Barbara DOES come to participate in our programming, she can work with volunteers in the mornings to help them with their adaptive skills.  I don’t have the training dates yet, but expect to have them later this month.

So now is a busy time, building up to a very busy time.  We will be ordering equipment.  And we are eagerly reaching out for participants and volunteers.  Some of Jacqui’s students are working on projects to raise awareness and spread the word.  Bryan and Jacqui will be participating in TAMC’s Take Flight and a couple of Cary Medical Center events, the Community Health Fair and the 5K Spike It Up.  We’re really grateful for the opportunities and expect to reach many people through these venues.

Finally, many people suggested that we need our own name and status.  While we are incredibly grateful that the Nordic Heritage Center has generously agreed to handle our funds while we get up and running, we cannot impose on the members longer than possible.  Also, we know that we will want to expand our programming to more venues in the winter and year round recreation.  So referring to our efforts as the Nordic Heritage Center-Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation Partnership, etc. (new name for every county venue) seemed unwieldy.  Thus we are moving ahead to establish a 501C3 called BEYOND LIMITS: Empowerment Through Recreation and More.  This is about ability and that nothing is impossible.  We see our mission as involving a huge educational component.  Ultimately, the goal is to have a viable nonprofit that some of our graduates can work in, spreading the BEYOND LIMITS philosophy.

Thank you, again, for all of your help and support.  These are really, really exciting times, thanks to you and so many others.  Thank you for being part of this special journey.  We are eager to continue it with you. "

You can reach out to Jacquelyn Lowman by emailing jacquelyn.lowman@umpi.edu.