As the 20th anniversary year of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Universal Access Program ends, we had to report the very significant impact its activities have had and continue to add to our lives.
Here’s a little background:
|Angie and Dan on Spectacle Island.|
On August 25, 2013, while swimming at Biddeford Pool, Maine, I (Angela) was swept by a rogue wave into a rock. The result was a soft tissue brain injury. That made it impossible for me to continue in my profession as a family nurse practitioner, a career I pursued since I was an early teen. That was followed by multi-organ failure in late February 2014 for which I was hospitalized at Baystate Medical Center for eight days. About eight weeks later, when the Baystate VNA was discharging me so I could attend rehabilitation classes at the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital, I fell and fractured my left leg in three places. Honestly, I felt like I was living Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
Besides the physical health problems, the mental anguish, anxiety and depression were taking their toll on my husband Danny and me. Whenever Danny tried to get me out of bed and out of our apartment if only to take a drive in our car, I wasn’t interested. The fact that I could no longer care for patients was causing major depression.
|Angie and Dan hiking in Wendell State Forest.|
That continued until we were introduced to the Pioneer Valley Brain Injury Support Group which introduced us to the DCR's Universal Access Program (UAP). We learned about DCR’s commitment to providing outdoor recreation opportunities in Massachusetts State Parks for visitors of all abilities. Accessibility to the state parks is achieved through site improvements, specialized adaptive recreation equipment, and accessible recreation programs.
As a part of its mission, DCR contracts with recreation organizations to provide recreational programs. Two of these are All Out Adventures (AOA), headquartered in Northampton and Outdoor Access (OA), a service offered via Stavros Center for Independent Living, Inc. with offices in Amherst, Springfield and Greenfield.
|Angie canoes at Hampden Ponds State Park|
with assistance from Jakob Palches
and Andrea Lontine.
Through the use of specialized equipment, much of which is provided by DCR, and trained staff, programs of AOA and OA are designed to encourage people of all abilities to recreate together, providing opportunities for them to develop skills and share outdoor experiences in every season. The activities Danny and I participated in included kayaking, recumbent cycling, camping, hiking, and, this winter we are looking forward to cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing.
For example, the camping experiences took us to the Mohawk State Park and Nickerson State Park. Other activities enabled us to visit Mount Greylock State Reservation in the Berkshires and Spectacle Island off the coast of Boston.
Aside from the actual activities, we have had the distinct pleasure of meeting some extremely dedicated excellent staff members from DCR, AOA and OA. We wish to name and thank them publicly. From DCR's Universal Access Program: Lee Ann LaRue, Rachael Lee, Andrea Lontine, Marcy Marchello and Matt Mitchell. From All Out Adventures: Karen Foster, Sue Tracy, Jakob Palches, Maggie Shar, Hanna Waldman, Rowan Gay, Naomi Harris, Mariah Fontaine and Caitlin Shapiro. From Stavros Outdoor Access: Brenda Davies, Maya Apfelbaum, Molly Lawler, Sue Ferraro and Momina Sims.
|Angie (in red) and Sue Tracy kayak at Quinsigamond State Park.|
In addition, we have met so many other program participants who, in their own ways, are trying to deal with physical and psychological challenges just like me. It has given me a new outlook realizing that I am not alone in the challenge to live my current life as has been dealt to me.
Frankly, I have come a long way since being introduced to the DCR-AOA-OA staffs and the activities they offer. No longer do I find myself wallowing in my own misery and having no interest in getting out of our home. I look forward to each and every activity and actually wish there were more opportunities for recreational events for all of us.
To the staff members of DCR, AOA and OA: Thanks for making 2015 such an adventurous and rewarding year for us! We are anxious to see what 2016 holds for all of us!