Caitlin Row
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December 13, 2012
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'Disability is no reason to stop doing what you love'

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - With anticipation over ski season brewing, Colorado Discover Ability (CDA) Integrated Outdoor Adventures, a local adaptive-sport program based in the Grand Valley, is readying its ranks for a kick-off of its own. CDA's adaptive winter program based at Powderhorn Mountain Resort will begin as soon as the ski area opens Saturday, Dec. 15.

"Disability is no reason to stop doing what you love," CDA Program Manager Jeremy Steinhauer said. "It's really cool for disabled individuals to have these experiences." It inspires "personal growth and confidence, being able to do something fun and to go fast. Most people in Colorado like to ski. It's great for everyone to have that opportunity."

CDA serves those with a variety of disabilities, from veterans with traumatic injuries, to blindness and cognitive issues, he added. Activities span summer and winter, with its most popular programs relating to skiing and rafting. Other activities include rock-climbing, biking and hiking.

Steinhauer is heading into his fourth year at the helm of CDA, and he said he loves his work because it allows him to make a positive impact on many people's lives.

"We work with about 300-350 different individuals every year, and we see those individuals about 1,000 times. We have lots of repeat participants, and we're able to experience lots of breakthroughs on the hill."

Seeing family and friends respond with tears in their eyes when they see someone they love accomplish a challenging endeavor, like mastering a sit-ski or rafting down the Colorado River, makes Steinhauer's job worthwhile. He also said it's a wonderful thing to see individuals come back from major injuries with activities they enjoyed before an accident.

Uschi Hall, who's worked and volunteered with CDA for about a decade, said she became involved in adaptive sports after moving to Grand Junction in 2002. An accident committed Hall to a wheelchair in 1994.

"I learned how to sit-ski first," she said. "I started out with CDA as a participant, and I was asked to join the board and volunteer. Since then, I've been on the board in every position."

In 2007, Hall also acted as the interim program manager, volunteering wherever she was needed.

"Grand Junction is really a great community," Hall said. "It's important to find ways to enjoy what's offered in Grand Junction and on the Western Slope."

And, because the program is smaller than adaptive programs run in tourist destinations throughout Colorado's mountain towns, Hall said she's had the pleasure of meeting and working with many of the same people year after year.

"Each activity - because of the wide variety of disabilities - is tailored to needs, wishes and goals," Hall said, from snowshoeing to riding bikes. "You may not want to go whitewater rafting, but you can float down the river through town. It's about the discovery of new, fun things."

Plus, CDA programming encourages friends and family to participate in all adaptive activities hosted by CDA volunteers and staff.

"I used to ski and be active before the accident," said Hall, who has two children ages 12 and 15. "We're still able to do things as a family and with friends."

Because adaptive-sport equipment often comes at a steep price, fundraising for CDA is also an ever-growing activity, CDA Donor and Community Relations Manager Ellen Miller said.

"Our current goal is to fundraise around $200,000," she said, including grants, gifts and special events.

A partnership with Powderhorn Mountain Resort helps CDA with its winter programming, too.

"They (Powderhorn) give us a lot of discounts," Miller said. "Skiing is expensive, as well as equipment, and it's costly to maintain. We (also) raise money for scholarships because we don't turn anyone away based on their financial circumstances."

"Recreation is a key part to someone's rehabilitation," Miller added. "We receive wonderful support from our medical community, and we work very closely with other community groups."

On top of financial support, a dedicated group of volunteers make CDA programs available throughout the community year-round.

"We couldn't do this without our volunteers," Miller said. "We have 150 volunteers for both summer and winter."

For more information about CDA, to volunteer or to participate, visit www.cdaioa.com or call 970-257-1222.


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 13, 2012 05:45PM Published Dec 13, 2012 05:44PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.