MS Adventure Program turns 1 with more excitement to come

February 3, 2017 Swedish Blogger

MSkayaking_350x_

The Multiple Sclerosis Center Adventure Program is now 1 year old. This past year has been fun, poignant and rewarding, not only for me but for people with MS. Some did things they love for the first time in years, while others felt the exuberance of new challenges. I am very much looking forward to more adventures in 2017. 


At the outset, I must give my thanks to Dr. James Bowen, the director of the MS Center, all of the wonderful people who work there and our generous donors for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an incredible program. This year marks my 20TH year as an occupational therapist, and I have never known another occupational therapist who has had the privilege of doing what I get to do. 

Adventurous spirits

I also must thank the all of fabulous people with MS, their families, friends and caregivers who participated in our adventures last year. I have been humbled many times as I have observed the tenacity, grace, ambition, joie de vivre and curiosity of our participants. 

As an occupational therapist for two decades, I have watched people move and problem solve in a wide variety of situations. This past year has been an extraordinary eye-opener for me. Evaluating a person’s functional performance in a hospital or clinic setting is so much different from watching people participate in an activity because they want to have fun, learn or challenge themselves.

In 2016 we had 15 adventures:

  • A tour of a marijuana production facility, chocolate factory and distillery
  • Indoor rock wall climbing 
  • Fine art classes and fused-glass Christmas ornament making
  • Adaptive sailing on Lake Washington
  • Adaptive cycling at Magnusson and Seward parks and at the annual Bike for MS event
  • Adaptive horseback riding lessons
  • Adaptive kayaking at Rattlesnake Lake
  • Gondola ride at Crystal Mountain 
  • A nutrition class
  • A Beach Boys concert
  • A guided art tour and mindfulness meditation

We partnered with, contracted with and received donations from many local organizations and businesses that provided us with a broad palate of experiences. These groups include: Outdoors for All, Pratt Fine Arts Center, Footloose Sailing Association, Equestrian Crossings, PCC Natural Market, Frye Art Museum, Seattle Theater Group, Sea of Green, Fremont Mischief, Theo Chocolate, Jimmy John’s and physical therapist Carolyn McManus. Thank you all.

Thrills and chills

We had participants who tried activities for the first time in their lives. We had people who rediscovered activities that they thought they would never get to try again. There were a lot of smiles and laughs, perhaps a few grimaces, and at times a healthy dose of fear. 

If I had to pick a personal highlight – well, of course, I should not; it is unwise to single out an event for fear of undermining others. But, I’m going to do it. 

We had to cancel a rafting trip due to low water levels on the Wenatchee River. Fortunately, Outdoors for All is a nimble organization and we were able to quickly replace rafting with a kayaking and cycling trip at Rattlesnake Lake. 

A beautiful moment

I feared that kayaking would offer a relatively lower thrill factor and pale in comparison to rafting. When we arrived at Rattlesnake Lake it was chilly, raining pretty hard and we had no shelter. As we started getting set up, the rain lifted, people started boarding kayaks and hopping onto bikes, and there was a fun buzz of activity. 

Then came the defining moment: The Outdoors for All staff assured me that we would be able to get a participant who is functionally a quadriplegic into a kayak. I was skeptical, even a little anxious, but keen to see it happen. After a little sliding, lifting and positioning we were privileged to watch the most beautiful scene. A woman with MS and her husband, a wonderful loving couple, floating out onto foggy Rattlesnake Lake together.

We have new activities for 2017. So far, they include:

• An introductory scuba class with a certified instructor from the Handicapped Scuba Association 
• An adaptive archery class
• Snowshoeing and downhill skiing/snowboarding 

Suggestions welcome

We will be repeating several of the successful events from last year. We are also hoping to set up a camping trip. 

We will continue to seek out activities for a wide variety of ability levels, and suggestions are always welcome. You can send them to simon.gale@swedish.org. Also, if you have any skills or resources that might be useful to the program, I’d love to hear from you.

Lastly, I would like to thank everybody who has been involved with the Adventure Program for their patience as I learn from experience how to get this program up and running.

You can learn more about the MS Center at Swedish here. For information specifically about appointments, click here.

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