Sunday, December 26, 2010

Skating Ahead of the Storm

During the height of holiday craziness, sometimes it takes a friend to remind you that nature is not very far away. With no snow on the ground, access to local ponds was a real possibility after a couple of weeks of uninterrupted freezing temperatures, but I hadn't been thinking about it. On Christmas eve, with the sun shining in a blue sky, a friend mentioned she was going skating. I've only been skating in rinks of late, setting up ramps to allow wheelchair access, dispensing ice sleds and walkers from a launch zone at the doorway, with minimal time to actually zoom around myself during program hours. Now at last, was a chance to take a glide on the wild side.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nordic Sitskiing - for families, winter explorers, and serious athletes!

Independent sitskiing at the Weston Ski Track.
We are still waiting for our first good snow here in western Massachusetts but nearby areas already have a foot of snow, so the winter recreation season is not far off. I am looking forward to getting back into a sitski this winter!

Nordic skiing, otherwise known as cross country, is my favorite form of skiing. I love gliding through a snowy landscape on my own power. While nordic skiing has been around for about 4000 years, nordic sitskiing is a more recent adaptation for skiers with spinal cord injuries, though not necessarily limited to people with disabilities. This seated outdoor exercise offers an upper body workout well-suited to those with a lot of strength and energy to burn. If you have use of your abdominal muscles you can use them to great advantage for bursts of speed. Sitskiing, with its lower center of gravity, allows for faster speeds on downhills compared to standskiing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sign Up for Winter Fun in Massachusetts!

Snowshoeing at D.A.R. State Forest
DCR's Universal Access Program announces its Winter 2011 Schedule this week with many wonderful recreation opportunities around the state to enjoy. Visit an indoor program at at state skating rinks to kickstart your outdoor adventures in a warmer environment where you can play on the ice and find out more about outdoor opportunities - or - just head straight for the great white playground at any one of the state park programs listed below! You'll find friendly faces and camaraderie - and all programs are free! Most equipment use comes as part of the program, though some may need to be rented on site for a fee. Call the numbers listed to reserve space and get more information regarding programs. Consider returning to some locations to play on your own! Please contact the site in advance to ensure equipment is available.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Importance of Field Testing

Heading out to test the Renegade wheelchair at Mt. Tom.
This month I've been involved in field testing a variety of adaptive recreation equipment to better understand what items we're considering for purchase in DCR's Universal Access Program. Over the years I've learned that it is vital to test equipment prior to purchase and observe people with disabilities testing products and get their feedback. Products can seem like the perfect solution at first glance, but may not always work well for everyone. This post offers a few insights into the process and three products we've been field testing, as mentioned in recent posts.

It is harder for some people to adjust to a different way of doing something familiar that new equipment entails. This alone can be an obstacle to success. Plan to spend some time just getting used to new motions the body may need to make to adapt, in an easy environment before expecting instant results. Some may get the hang of it immediately, take off, and really be able to test the equipment. Many will find starting slowly and getting some good instruction by someone who really knows the equipment most productive. In some cases having such an instructor also using the equipment so that they can demonstrate technique is essential.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It Is Never Too Late To Re-Create Yourself

Rich Ramos back at home on the water.
Photo by Kitty Mears.
I first met Richard Ramos a year ago at our first REC Connect Power Chairs On Ice program. Rich came nearly every month through spring 2010 and joined us on the ice again this month in Revere for our second season. I was intrigued to discover at that recent program that Rich has been expanding his recreation activities, so I called him up to find out more.
Rich grew up on Nantucket, infused by the sea, and developed an early love of sailing ships and birds, two things that represent freedom to him. "I was in love with nature", he said with ease, "and had a deep intimate connection to bogs, ponds and the seashore." When he was 12, he learned to sail, and got a boat for his birthday. When he was 16, he broke his neck.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The BuddyBike - An Alternative Tandem Bicycle

I tested the BuddyBike last week, in my ongoing quest for potential bike purchases for our adaptive cycling program. The BuddyBike is a two-wheel tandem designed to support a front rider who needs a little extra balance support while riding, either in an ongoing fashion or to transition to riding a two-wheel bike independently. Wide handlebars allow the rear rider to steer the bike and give the front rider a chance to experience biking at the front of the ride versus behind the lead rider as on a conventional tandem.

I first tried this bike quite a few years ago, when it was an earlier incarnation known as the Love Bike. At that time I didn't get much time with it and never quite got the hang of it. I was especially interested  to see how user friendly it would feel this time. I was pleased to discover it took me, as an average adult cyclist, just a minute or so to get the feel of riding the BuddyBike. I test rode it with 6 year old Nate Coleman, then in both in back and front with Nate's mom Kerri, who is a sales rep for, a regional distributor of the Florida-based BuddyBikes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Dzialo Family Blazes a New Trail

Adam Dzialo enjoys the Shining Sea Bike
Path in Falmouth, MA near where  he lives.
I remember the day that 12 year old Adam Dzialo nearly drowned in the Deerfield River. It was the summer of 1998 and I was 3 years deep into my current career of recreation program coordinator. As I gazed at the headline on the front page of the Greenfield Recorder, my heart sank into my stomach. Something had gone terribly wrong in an outdoor recreation program in our community. It was a program coordinator's worst nightmare, but this gut wrenching fact was irrelevant compared to the incomprehensible agony of Adam and his family.

Now, twelve years later, the story of the accident and the ongoing recovery of Adam and his family are now available in a new book called Ceramic to Clay, by his mother Sharon Dzialo. It is so new off the press, I don't have a copy yet, but plan to give it my full attention soon. You can find it on Amazon or at the link above. Adam's father Phil has recently started a blog called Healing, Empowering and Thriving, which chronicles the many aspects of this family's unique approach to supporting their son's recovery to the fullest extent possible. Their story is a raw and tender journey we should all know and respect. Their model is a true guide for others who strive for solutions outside the box and want to keep and care for their loved ones at home beyond the realm of typical institutional care.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

FreeWheeling in November

I am finally getting the hang of the FreeWheel, an adaptive accessory for manual wheelchair users. Despite my lack of wheelchair skills and savvy - I plunged merrily through puddles in my zeal to test the product and naturally got soaked - it was a thrill to be able to wheel with ease over soggy grass, irregular hardpacked surfaces, and debris on the ground. I found the effort to propel the chair and the strain on my upper body amazingly reduced with the use of the FreeWheel compared to without it. I could travel in places I otherwise couldn't and get much farther with dramatically reduced effort. Wow! It seems well suited to this time of year too.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Excellent Innovation - SideStix and Renegade Wheelchair

Yesterday morning, Brenda Davies of Outdoor Access and I "crashed" an Occupational Therapy conference in Norwood, MA to hear Sarah Doherty give the keynote address, then recieved a pair of her all terrain sports crutches called SideStix to try out in our Universal Access programs. We spent the afternoon at Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston checking out the Renegade Wheelchair with John Rackley, its intrepid quadriplegic designer. What a treat it was to be introduced to two wonderful adaptive designers and their exceptional equipment, in one day!
Sarah shows off her SideStix in the sand.

Sarah Doherty grew up in Taunton, MA and traveled from Vancouver, BC to re-connect with the OT community in Massachusetts. At 13, she lost one leg, and has been on an amazing trajectory ever since. Her keynote speech was the story of her life, which includes not only becoming an occupational therapist, but being the first woman to summit Mt. Rainier in Washington on crutches and the first person to summit Mt. McKinley in Alaska with one leg. In the process, she learned a lot about what she needed from her crutches in extreme conditions, and SideStix are the result. Lightweight, resilient, and well-engineered, Sidestix feature shock absorption and rotational "ankles" with interchangeable tips for various conditions including snow, sand and mud. Sarah, now 50, will be field testing her shoulder-saving product on Mt. Rainier again next year. Go Sarah! I had arranged to pick up a demo package in advance, and still we couldn't believe we were walking away with a pair to try with our program participants! Check out SideStix on video!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peer Mentors Needed for Adaptive Recreation!

DCR's Universal Access Program is building a small network of peer mentors as part of its REC Connect Project. If you live in the Boston, Worcester, or Holyoke areas of Massachusetts, have a disability, and want to help out at programs as well as have fun at them, contact Heidi Marie-Peterson at 413-577-3840.

Adam assisted our recent hike at Borderland.
Adam Markell is our first peer mentor in the Boston area. He is an avid hiker and swimmer and  has been assisting hiking programs in eastern Massachusetts this summer and fall. Adam is using this opportunity to explore and experience outdoor recreation for people with disabilities. He is making all kinds of connections between disability networks as well as providing great physical and social support to our programs. Adam will also be helping us survey participants, track their progress in activities, and refer them to a wide variety of recreation opportunities. The work he is doing is building his resume and job skills and giving him valuable work experience in addition to assisting us with our goals. I'm looking forward to seeing Adam at the Weston Ski Track this winter, where we will be cross country skiing, kicksledding, and snowshoeing.

If you think you would enjoy being a peer mentor and would like to join Adam in our programs, we'd love to talk to you. Check us out on facebook! Call Heidi or email her at We are open to working with your individual interests and abilities to determine your unique peer mentor path!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beauty at Borderland, Beach Chair Makeover, and Upcoming Halloween Treat at Maudslay

Charms Collaborative group at the entrance of the Ames Mansion.
If you haven't been to Borderland State Park, it is well worth an autumn outing! Located on the border of N. Easton and Sharon, Massachusetts, this former estate south of Boston offers miles of forested carriage roads and trails, six ponds, glacial outcroppings, an unusual mansion, and a fascinating slice of history. Oakes and Blanche Ames were both from prominent Boston families and devoted to the outdoors. He was a professor of botany at Harvard; she was an artist, feminist, author and inventor who designed their unique stone home, now 100 years old. Both had numerous civic involvements, and together they collaborated on a lifelong study of orchids, which are one of the most thoroughly documented plant families thanks to their efforts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mass Audubon Introduces Sensory Trails

A post and wire guide system allows blind visitors to access
nature at Stony Brook Sanctuary in Norfolk.
Interpretive nature trail designers are increasingly aware that it is vital to include all of the senses - sight, sound, taste, olfactory and tactile - in planning self-guided educational trail experiences for visitors. By doing so, trail users of all ages are more likely to engage with nature and retain what they've learned. Experiential learning also tends to be more enjoyable for everyone. For trail users who are blind or have partial sight, drawing upon non-visual elements and designing for navigation is key to providing an experience that can be fully appreciated.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Get Out There and Play with REC Connect!

Test riding a bike at DCR's annual Accessible Recreation Fair.

DCR's Universal Access Program has a new grant project underway called REC Connect! If you are an adult or teen with a moderate to severe physical disability we hope you'll join our growing network of participants who are exploring recreation options in the greater Boston, Worcester, and Holyoke areas of Massachusetts.

With federal assistance from the U.S. Department of Education, DCR is working to promote and provide expanded recreation options for individuals with disabilities. REC Connect participants will develop recreation plans with a counselor, find out where and how to get out there, discover new abilities in the outdoors, and play! Join this fall and take advantage of our 3 year grant project to expand your horizons!

Hikers hit the trail at Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke.

REC Connect makes use of existing DCR Universal Access programs, such as hiking, cycling, sailing, rowing, kayaking, power chair games, nature activities and winter recreation. The grant project also works with other community partners to strengthen adaptive recreation opportunities and awareness and help overcome barriers. Project elements in the works include the development of a Greater Boston Area Accessible Recreation Coalition. a peer mentor program, and an on-line recreation community via this blog and facebook.

Power Chairs On Ice, a program with a variety of games played in ice rinks by power chair users, is one new activity that will take place this fall and winter in all three urban areas. We are still in the process of determining what our second new activity will be! Let us know what you'd like to do!

Power Chairs on Ice at the Cronin Rink in Revere.
To find out more and get involved, visit us on facebook at "DCR REC Connect" and contact project coordinator Heidi Marie-Peterson at 413-577-3840 or

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Looking for something to do in the Pioneer Valley?


September 17 - October 3:
The Big E - THE EASTERN STATES EXPOSITION - The biggest fair around with something for everyone: mardi gras parade, concerts, auto shows, stunt shows, historical village, petting zoo, midway, horse show, agricultural displays, and more. Thursday, September 23 is Massachusetts Day and DCR's Universal Access Program will have some adaptive recreation equipment on display behind the Massachusetts building from 10am - 1pm. Sunday, October 3 is Special Olympics Day. Much if not all of the event is quite accessible and there are wheelchair and stroller rentals. Last year I went and saw lots of people with disabilities enjoying the fair!

RIDE THE MERRY-GO-ROUND on fall weekends at Holyoke Heritage State Park: Saturday and Sunday from 12noon-4pm. The Merry-Go-Round is wheelchair accessible - you can get on the platform to enjoy the ride! Some people may be able to transfer into carriages on the carousel and the 80 year old horses are spectacular! Holyoke Heritage State Park also features historical  and art exhibits, a green space in the middle of the city, with Children's Museum and Volleyball Museum close by, all at 221 Appleton Street. Call 413-534-1723 for more info on HHSP exhibits and other events taking place on site. For the merry-go-round, call 413-534-9838.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Inclusive, Universally Designed, Boundless Playgrounds - where is the closest one to you?

The triple slide allows a center person to be supported on both
sides by adjacent sliders or a few kids to slide all at once.
The center slide is designed for gentle stopping
en route to the ground if you need it, and the ground
is an easy impact rubbery surface.
Back to school time gets me to thinking about kids and playgrounds. I decided to satisfy my curiosity about Boundless Playgrounds with a side trip to E. Longmeadow this week to visit one. I found the place quite active with a dozen families and three times as many kids on a beautiful early autumn late afternoon.

There are about 200 Boundless Playgrounds in the U.S. and Canada, with 100 more in the works. Boundless Playgrounds is a Connecticut-based organization originally inspired by a girl in a wheelchair who was unable to play with other kids on the playground in 1997. Boundless Playgrounds assist communities in developing inclusive playgrounds using level site access, supportive surfaces, and thoughtfully designed play elements. They use play structures and safety surfaces designed by Game Time. A quick perusal of their website shows 45 Boundless Playgrounds in Connecticut, 11 in Massachusetts, 3 in Rhode Island, 1 in Vermont, and none listed yet in New Hampshire or Maine. Many are on school grounds, some are located a private facilites, and others are in public parks.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Enjoy the Fall Season at Fun Events in Eastern Massachusetts!

Tree installation at last year's Outdoor Sculpture
Show at Maudslay State Park.
I just returned from vacation to discover an amazing array upcoming events in eastern Massachusetts at various state parks. Just had to share! There is something here for almost everyone. All events are generally accessible, meaning that most people should be able to access at least most of the experience. Please call if you have specific needs regarding accommodation so you know what to expect.

Thru October 2nd: - Newburyport, MA: 12th Annual Outdoor Sculpture Show in the Park, Maudslay State Park, Curzon Mill Road. Level fields and forest lanes offer a showcase for sculptural pieces that celebrate the park, nature, conservation or ecology. Entries by 30 local artists make for an interesting explore of the park. Catalogs available in the trail map box. Artists reception Saturday, September 18 from 2-5pm. For more information, contact Bert Snow at 978-462-0423 or visit

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall is a Great Time for Whale Watching

Recently observed whales on a Boston Harbor Cruise Whale Watch.
I've been on a handful of whale watches over the years, all in Massachusetts. The opportunity to be out on the water with whales and other sea life is quite extraordinary. The presence of whales is so magnificent I always find tears in my eyes and a renewed awe of the natural world. It is an opportunity that everyone should be able to have. Recently I've been inspired by Kenny Cieplik's whale watching ventures to write a post here, as well as make a date to get out on another whale watch.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Explore The Boston Harbor Islands September 13th

Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor
There are 34 islands in Boston harbor, and they are an oasis of natural beauty with rich history. Many are managed by DCR, as well as the National Park Service and several partnership organizations. The islands are well worth exploring and make interesting day trip excursions out of Boston. Some are quite rustic, others moderately developed. Of all the islands, Spectacle Island is the most developed and universally accessible, having undergone a complete transformation (including universal design) after serving as a repository for earth during the massive underground road construction project in Boston known as "the Big Dig". Georges Island has just reopened this year after a major renovation project that includes an accessible visitor center. I was there last year as the renovation was going on, but haven't been back to see it yet this year, so I'm not up to speed yet on the accessibility report.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Take a Walk at Walden Pond on August 26

The cabin replica at Walden Pond.
A long time ago, a man built a small cabin by the side of a pond and lived there for 2 years enjoying his connection to nature. His book about his experiment in simplifying his life became a classic in American literature and helped sparked the conservation movement. Today you too can visit Walden Pond, take a walk in the woods, enjoy the pond, and the words of Henry David Thoreau, even if you have a disability.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Great Day of Paddling at D.A.R. State Forest

The Austine School rafts up for a photo.
"We love this program. What would we do without it? This is the only opportunity most of our kids have to get out on the water and ride a bike. Many of their families lack the resources or can't provide this experience."

So says Shari Annis of the Austine School for the Deaf of Brattleboro, Vermont. I met this boisterous group again today at D.A.R. State Forest in Goshen and love the way they take full advantage of all the Universal Access Program has to offer. I also saw them this week canoeing in Barton Cove and they'll be cycling in Hadley with All Out Adventures again on Friday. The kids are full of energy and their hoots and hollers could be heard across the lake.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Because Veterans Are the Best!"

Todd Munn (in red shirt, far right) greets wounded veterans
alongside the Connecticut River.
Thanks to Ralph Marche for the quote above - his reason for providing adaptive recreation for veterans at events around New England for no charge. I met Ralph yesterday at the first day of the Wounded Warrior Project in Hartford, CT - an event I attended to learn more about serving veterans and to experience another model for facilitating adaptive recreation events. WWP events are a powerful thank-you to those who have served our country.

Hosted by the Gaylord Hospital Sports Association and Disabled Sports USA, the organizers effortlessly solved one of the critical challenges of facilitating an event - perfect weather! Warm, dry and sunny weather is forecast for all three days, in which 26 veterans with permanent disabilities enjoy a free weekend of kayaking, cycling, rowing, fishing, and adventure programming. The event is being held at Riverside Park, a beautiful, accessible location and part of an extensive and impression rehabilitation of Hartford's riverside by Riverfront Recapture over the past 3 decades - a perfect setting for personal rehabilitation as well!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beach Wheelchairs - What is Your Experience?

Yesterday I took a trip to Lake Wyola in Shutesbury on a hot day as part of testing the Tiralo Beach Chair. Its a lounge chair on wheels, made in France, that does a nice job of not just getting people with physical limitations to the water's edge, but also into the water on a supportive frame that floats. Turns out to be a very stable and fun experience that anyone can appreciate!

The Tiralo has been around for awhile as a beach wheelchair product, but I'm not sure how much visibility or use it gets in the U.S. It is recommended for calm water, and vulnerable passengers should wear a personal flotation device. We purchased one a few years ago and finally took a test plunge with it. Very refreshing! To get one now is probably a special order for around $2500.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Surviving and Thriving with Brain Injuries

A beautiful summer day - sunny, much less humid, and gradually working its way towards hot instead of totally broiling here in western Massachusetts. I caught an hour or so with All Out Adventures at our canoeing program in Gill on the Connecticut River and unexpectedly learned some important distinctions about brain injury, which can run the gamut from mild to severe, and effect mental, physical, and neurological functions of the body.

ServiceNet was there with a group of people with brain injuries. Some explored the cove by canoe in search of eagles, beaver, and cool shady edges on the far shore while three others hung out under a canopy playing Uno. As I was labeling equipment for the program, they updated me on causes of brain injury, not all of which are considered "traumatic", meaning caused by mishap such as an auto or motorcycle accident.

Blind, Solo, and Through-Hiking the Appalachian Trail!

Mike Hanson from Minnesota, is hiking the AT this summer from Georgia to Maine. No guide, no guide dog - just himself with pack and hiking poles. Wow! He is committed to drawing attention to the capabilities of people who are blind and also the use of adapted GPS for blind hikers.

Mike has been an active outdoorsman for thirty-some years and has been preparing for this year's trek for a few years, securing funding and testing his methods. Now in his mid-40's, he is navigating the trail at a pace most through-hikers would find frustrating, using his poles to tap out comprehension of the roots, rocks and obstacles along the way. Traveling about ten miles a day, he has already covered 1000 miles. This past weekend while he was passing over Race Mountain in Mt. Everett State Reservation in the Berkshires, he met DCR's Chief of Recreation on the trail hiking - which is how I found out about Mike's trek. Wish I could say I met him on the AT!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the River with the Geezer and the Gimp

The Swift River in Belchertown has ice cold clear water, so clear you can see the trout darting alongside your boat as you paddle upstream from the put in off Cold Spring Road in Belchertown. This narrow winding river is the perfect place to be on a 90 degree day, with its refreshing pockets of cool air above the water.

I joined Bob and Charlie this week on the river, for a welcome respite from office, programs and continuous logistics. Self proclaimed the Geezer and the Gimp, they've been adventure buddies ever since meeting at an outdoor program 15 years ago. They cycle or paddle together each week, exploring and re-exploring trails and rivers all over the place. Charlie is quadriplegic, an avid nature lover, sails in Boston Harbor with Piers Park Sailing, and teaches wheelchair mobility skills at rehab hospitals. Bob must be somewhere close to 80, has a lifelong love affair with motorcycles and boats, and publishes an intriguing magazine called Messing About in Boats.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Staying Cool in Kayaks on the Water

Yesterday I joined an adaptive kayaking program at D.A.R. State Forest in Goshen for an easy hour of cooling off on the water. Brenda Davies of Stavros Outdoor Access was the outdoor leader of the day and had plenty of fun ideas for the dozen or so paddlers on the lake the last hour of her day long program. The D.A.R. State Forest is on the eastern edge of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, an easy drive from Greenfield, Northampton, and Pittsfield. It is a great place to picnic, enjoy a beach (beach wheelchair available!), camp, fish, and explore a 1/4 mile accessible trail as well as miles of hiking trails.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hot Day Brings Out Handcyclists

For over twelve years, people have come from all over Massachusetts to ride adaptive bikes on the Norowottuck Rail Trail in the Connecticut River Valley. Today, despite the heat, many riders were enjoying the trail, which is blessed with a lot of shade and a gentle breeze that sweeps across the farm fields in the valley. Even with temperatures above ninety, riders were having a great time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Adaptive Rowing in Holyoke

I stole away from the office one morning early last week to catch a glimpse of adaptive rowing in Holyoke. It was one of those perfect summer mornings, cool and bright, and the river was calm and inviting. I found Stephanie Moore of Holyoke Rows in the center of a hubub of people and gear on the dock at Jones Ferry.

Stephanie has been offering adaptive rowing for years in conjunction with DCR's Universal Access Program, and currently hosts the program at a new boathouse in Holyoke, which allows rowing and paddling to be accessible to everyone in this urban area along the Connecticut River.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Follow Luke and Learn to Sail on the Charles River in Boston!

I haven't made it to the Esplanade in Boston yet this summer to sail with Community Boating, but reports are trickling in from new sailors who have discovered the joys of adaptive sailing already. Luke Baca is one of the newest and happiest. The thrill of sailing seems to override any of the usual limitations that might hinder a young man with Spina Bifida who has paralyzed legs, difficulty with fine motor control, and an anxiety disorder. Normal anxiousness about leaving his chair or sustaining minor injuries like blisters or splinters seems to evaporate in the sailing environment. According to Luke, "I'm not really disabled on water, because no one can walk on water. In fact, I have such upper body strength, I'm at an advantage!"

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Letterboxing Offers Fun Discovery Wherever You Are

If you like mysteries, graphics, and the great outdoors, an activity known as letterboxing may be a wonderful pursuit for you and your family. A treasure hunt of widespread proportions, letterboxing can be done by anyone anywhere in the U.S. and even beyond. In its simplest form, you follow clues to hidden boxes where you'll find hand-carved stamps which you can print in a logbook you carry. The clues are found on-line at, where you can scroll by state, county, and town for letterbox lisings. At, you'll find a far more sophisticated website listing many variations of this intriguing pastime and allowing for the quest of wheelchair accessible letterboxes.

Letterboxes contain stamps on family friendly topics (typically), ranging from cartoon characters, historical tidbits, nature lore, literary references, place-based commemoratives, personal tributes, favorite movies, and more. Clues can be straightforward directions using landmarks, compass readings, stories, riddles, puzzles, images - you name it. Stamps can be made from erasers or artist's carving material, carved by kids or adults, with a full array of styles, sizes, artistic ability. Anyone can make a letterbox, even with a store bought stamp.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How Do Kids with Disabilities Find Friends?

How do kids with disabilities find friends? I know it can be challenging for any child to find comfortable companions their own age, with similar interests and compatible personalities. I spoke with the mother of a young girl recently on the phone. She was interested in bringing her daughter with spina bifida to a recreation program this summer. She wanted to know if other kids would be coming, and mentioned that it has been difficult for her daughter to make connections with kids her age that also have a similar disability.  Her daughter uses a wheelchair and has good verbal communication skills, but apparently other kids in wheelchairs she's met haven't been able to communicate easily, so a potential friendship doesn't click.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"The Things I See, The People I Meet"

My week was complete as I got to introduce myself to Matt Eddy and his crew late Friday afternoon.

I caught up with them in Springfield, at the end of a 20 mile day, in a Walgreens parking lot. Matt was just rolling to a stop, and his roadside endspot was marked with their blue placard (visible on left). Each day's travel is filmed by Dani (left), beginning and ending with this mile marker, as part of tracking and verifying the trip for a Guiness World Record.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crossing the Country for a Great Cause via Power Wheelchair

I'd like to introduce you to Matt Eddy and his buddy Ron. Two guys on a cross country trek. Matt driving his power wheelchair, using a ventilator, determined to get to California. Ron, his respiratory therapist and all around support person, determined to help Matt reach his goals of setting a Guinness World Record for the coast-to-coast journey by wheelchair. Together they are raising awareness and money for Matt's Place - their efforts to provide independent housing for people with severe disabilities capable of living on their own.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Not Just Any Day in the Park

I drove 2 hours to Boston in the rain and mist. I drove home in the a wild rainstorm. In between, for a miracle 7 hours, unforecasted sun shone on our Accessible Recreation Fair in Boston yesterday.

Over 275 people attended the event at Artesani Park, hosted by DCR's Universal Access Program. Individuals, families, and groups tried out cycling, hiking, and letterboxing, got their faces painted, and enjoyed refreshments and a stroll in the park. Many discovered new recreation opportunities to explore this summer.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Model T Crossing America for Vets

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and what better commemorative than the journey of two guys across country in a 1916 Model T to raise awareness and money for Disabled American Veterans.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Accessible Recreation Fair in Boston June 5!

Preparations are well underway for the annual DCR Accessible Recreation Fair in early June! If you live in the greater Boston are you won't want to miss this great opportunity. It's the place to find out about summer recreation programs and opportunities as well as try out a variety of land-based activities.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Celebrating the CCC at Wendell State Forest

I had the distinct honor to witness a very special event today at Wendell State Forest - an annual CCC day celebrating the Civilian Conservation Corps. A government work project initiated by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and lasting until 1942, the CCC employed young men from cities and put them to work throughout the U.S. in rural areas clearing land and laying the foundations for nearly 800 state parks.

There are few CCCers still alive today and their numbers are dwindling fast. Adam Drozbowski, 96 years old, lives just a few miles away and still drives up the hill to attend the event each year. "One day," he said, "we'd cut wood, the next day we'd build roads, the next day burn brush, every day was something different!" The beautiful stonework in the park is linked directly to his gnarled hands. Though Adam only lived in the CCC camp on site for 6 months, the experience tied him to the land. He went on to serve in the Army, then returned to the area and worked in local paper mills until he retired 30 years ago.