Each month we feature a new charity to share with our readers in hopes that they might donate to or at least spread the word to others for awareness. For November we are profiling the Seattle based Outdoors for All Foundation.
Mission: “To enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.”
The Outdoors For All Foundation began in 1978. Its first program, Ski For All, took place on Washington’s Snoqualmie Pass with a handful of skiers and volunteers. Since then, Outdoors For All Foundation has grown to include year-round recreational activities. There are over 2,000 participants and over 700 volunteers and staff that make Outdoors For All one of the largest nonprofit organizations.
Molly Harrigan, Program Manager at Outdoors For All, says her duties include running the Snoqualmie Summit program with the help of amazing volunteers. Their group has skiing, snowboarding, Nordic and snowshoeing opportunities, which includes sit skis and other adaptive equipment. “Something I’m noticing is how much adaptive recreation can change families by enabling all members of the family to recreate together,” Harrigan says. The group partners with the Special Olympics Skihawks, Wounded Warrior Project and Paralympic Sports NW. “Something I’m noticing is how much adaptive recreation can change families by enabling all members of the family to recreate together,” Harrigan says.
O.F.A. runs year-round custom events that tailor activities to a target population, like a snowshoe day with The School for the Blind. There are also weekly day camps when youth are not in school, while summer is heavy on adaptive cycles, kayaks, hiking and climbing. O.F.A. has year- round equipment rental hours, as well as an assessment program.
Volunteering for these programs can be a very rewarding way to give back to such a great cause. Approximately 700 people volunteer annually, starting as young as age 13. “Our team is always recruiting help, which could include office work, repairing equipment or providing direct service,” says Harrigan.
Jackie Thomas-Rask and her husband Michael volunteered for Ski For All, the original program which began on the slopes of Snoqualmie Pass in 1978. They were involved in the program for a decade and eventually became senior staff members; Michael served on the Board of Directors. They have fond memories of their experience working with so many participants of all ages and abilities.
“The benefit of working together to create an experience that is true joy is an everlasting benefit,” said Jackie about the benefits of working in a program like Ski For All/Outdoors For All. “We learned how to safely take risks that encompassed building trust in our personal ski level and exchanging that with the many participants that we were privileged to guide. We better understand the rewards of persevering. Our memories are all positive and life- changing.”
One particular success story stood out in Jackie’s mind. An adult participant who was a successful anesthesiologist, contracted polio as a child which left him with partial paralysis in his legs. His wife and children were avid skiers, and he always dreamed of being able to go with them. Through Michael and Jackie’s instruction and encouragement, the participant learned to ski with the aid of adaptive poles, which had small skis on the ends, to help with balance and guide his legs down the slopes. He could ski independently by the end of the season. The reward for Michael and Jackie came the next ski season, when by chance, they saw him with his wife, skiing down the slopes together.
If volunteering is not something you are able to provide, another way to serve this wonderful organization is to make a financial donation. A financial donation can be another way to contribute in addition to volunteer work. The annual O.F.A. Gala Auction happens on November 5th. The “Red Carpet” themed Gala Auction has an average attendance of 350 people that support the mission of the Outdoors for All Foundation. Attendees can come dressed as their favorite movie star or in their best gown or tux. Items up for auction include vacation packages, sporting equipment, gift certificates and artwork. For more information, please click on the link: http://www.outdoorsforall.org/auction.html
The organization relies on funding from outside sources. There are a handful of paid staff as well as a budget for operational and equipment costs. Per Harrigan, “Today’s challenging economic environment has taken a significant toll on our business operations. Unfortunately, over the past two years we’ve seen a 20% drop in revenue. We have reduced costs wherever we can, including reducing staff. Most staff members were sent on unpaid furloughs last year and then again this spring to try to balance the budget.” Sadly, they have had to place a number of popular day camps and certain fall, spring and summer programs on hiatus for the year. “Demand for the many life transforming therapeutic recreation programs that we offer for children and adults with disabilities hasn’t diminished; and this includes the Wounded Warrior Project and their mission of encouraging more men and women injured in service to participate in our programs,” says Harrigan.
Outdoors For All also organize various fundraisers throughout the year, such as Spree at the Summit. They have programs for workplace donations, corporate partnerships, sponsorships, and specific wish lists for purchasing adaptive recreational equipment.
Please check out the Outdoors For All website for more information regarding volunteering, donating, and other ways you can become involved in giving someone a chance to “exercise their abilities.”
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