(Photo above courtesy of Oregon Adaptive Sports)
All Bendite locals know about the Pole Peddle Paddle set for May 16, the multi-sport event that starts up at Mt. Bachelor and ends in town with a sprint by the Deschutes River. What locals may not know is that since 2005, there’s been an adaptive category. This year four adaptive teams are set to race in the famous multi-sport race, including the first ever youth adaptive PPP team in the mini-PPP on Sunday May 17.
In order to qualify for the adaptive category, at least three of the race legs must be completed by persons with disabilities. Each team has adaptive athletes all with disabilities ranging from Muscular Dystrophy, Visual Impairments, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Double amputee, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stoke, Spina Bifia and more. With the support of Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS), a nonprofit outdoor organization for people with disabilities, it’s an encouraging day where the only true disability is a closed mind.
Mother, Amy and son Jack Neff will be racing together for one of the adaptive team, True Grit. Neff, 9, of Bend has Cerebral Palsy and is an accomplished bi-skier who can be found frequenting the slopes with OAS’s Adaptive Instructors.
Together, Jack and his mom will run the leg with the use of a four-wheel pediatric wheelchair that’s good on gravel. While Jack wants to run the whole thing, it’s about teamwork for the family duo. Together near the end of the run leg they hope to run it hand-in-hand with the wheelchair in tow.
Then there’s Justin and his son, Ben Finestone, who will do the run and sprint leg for their team, No Boundaries. Finestone, 12, of Bend has Down Syndrome – “with only an extra chromosome” as his mom says. Finestone is a skilled athlete who has participated in the Special Olympics swim team as well as his middle school cross-country and track team. His father and Finestone have also run a few 5K’s together – “running is something he really enjoys doing,” says Finestone’s father. As a matter of fact, the soon-to-be teen currently has a half marathon on his list of goals to achieve within the next few years. Certainly Finestones’ track skills will come in handy when sprinting across the finish line.
There’s also Geoff Babb, who has done the alpine leg for the last five years for team, Onward! Geoff Babb, 57, of Bend had a stroke in 2005 but hasn’t let that be a barrier to getting outside.
Babb, a weekend warrior with a self-deprecating attitude, says he enjoys “advenchairing” with his wife as well as adaptive kayaking, cycling, horseback riding and skiing. Together Babb and OAS instructor Dave Weil will shred the slopes at Mt. Bachelor starting the momentum for team Onward! “It’s the most inspirational day of the year for me,” says Babb, the unofficial team captain for all three teams.
Followed by the large PPP event is the mini PPP where there will be the first ever youth adaptive team. The team will have six team members between the age of 6 up to 12 with disabilities including Down syndrome and Autism. Team Captain, Amanda Hammer, is excited for all the kids to get together and compete in the rafting, biking, obstacle course and run leg – not to mention the families that will get to meet through this great event.
The support by OAS staff and volunteers enables all eleven inspiring athletes to compete as well as the support from the community and local businesses. However, more importantly it’s the can-do attitude from all the adaptive athletes and the crewmembers that make the day an aspiring day for all where the only true disability is a closed mind.
For more information about the PPP adaptive teamsand OAS, contact Oregon Adaptive Sports at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-306-4774.
Oregon Adaptive Sports has been breaking barriers in Central Oregon since 1996, providing people with disabilities opportunities for outdoor recreation. Our goal is to nurture the human spirit and foster confidence, build self-esteem and strive for independence. We currently offer instructional programs in alpine and Nordic skiing and snowboarding, at both Hoodoo and Mt. Bachelor ski resorts as well as summer programs through throughout the great Bend area. To prevent cost from being a barrier to participation, we rely on the support of hundreds of volunteers, businesses, donors and sponsors.