The Summer Wilderness Program Celebrates Returning Participants on the River

The 2022 Wilderness Program resumed full operations this year after two years of limited programming post pandemic recovery.  We were delighted to welcome a full slate of summer interns and program staff who embraced our returning long-time partners and participants, as well as several new groups.  All have enjoyed the great outdoors and expanded their potential by challenging themselves doing activities they never thought possible.

Staff Training Group Picture

BOEC Training Manager, Jillian Palacio, kicks of the season with a 2022 Summer Staff Training Brunch

BOEC Summer Staff 2022 BBQ on Griffith Lodge Deck

Incredible Partners

Long-time partners including Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Cleft Camp and Cleft Camp South, and CamPossible for children living with Cerebral Palsy, returned to spend time at the Griffith Lodge as well as hike and adventure as a group around Colorado. The Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (BIA) also returned to BOEC’s Wilderness program with five, week-long overnight camps for individuals living with an injury to the brain.  For over twenty-five years, the BIA programs have been participating in BOEC’s “Challenge by Choice” curriculum which offers therapeutic recreation activities like rafting, ropes course, paddling, and hiking that participants are encouraged to try to gain confidence and experience new things. All BIA/BOEC programs also included social time, group meal preparation, and the customary dance party which is always a huge hit for staff and participants alike.

Cleft Camp South hiking to a glacial lake

Having fun at game night with our BIA participants

On the water with first-year participants from Traveling Gnomes

In addition to our decades long partners above, Kids at their Best and Traveling Gnomes, two Colorado nonprofits serving underserved youth and kids, teens, and adults living with cognitive disabilities respectively, also returned to BOEC.

A father who attended Wilderness Camp, an open enrollment course for young adults with disabilities, claimed that laughter was abundant on the trip sharing with our team following his sons camp experience, “I can relay that my son’s mom and I were hesitant to have our son go on such an overnight experience, thus, one reason why I thought I needed to attend. After returning from the trip, I without hesitation would 100% trust your staff to take care of him on any future trip without his mom or me being present.”  He went on to say, “ I have never heard my son laugh so much as these past 5 days. Of course, this made me feel warm to this BOEC experience and will have memories of a lifetime to share with family and friends.”

A beautiful sunset post hike with participants of the Kids At Their Best camp.

New Partnerships

We also welcomed new partner Evergreen Parks and Recreation’s Summer Inspire Program which serves individuals living with a variety of disabilities and came weekly throughout the summer for rafting, cycling, ropes course, and more!

We were fortunate to partner with Craig Hospital’s Therapeutic Recreation Program on two new programs, one which brought a group of young adults living with an injury to the brain to the BOEC to spend time on Lake Dillon for some fun, adventure, and stand-up paddle boarding.  Operation TBI Freedom, a program of Craig Hospital’s Therapeutic Recreation Department serving veterans who have endured an injury to the brain while serving our country.  This new partnership, part of BOEC’s Heroic Military Family Program, consisted of a number of day programs as well as an overnight program which brought five veterans and their family members to the BOEC Wilderness site and the Griffith Lodge. Together, everyone participated in group leadership activities, the ropes course, kayaking on the sawmill reservoir, and cooked several delicious meals. Jason, a veteran, and Operation TBI Freedom member, shared, “The BOEC team is a true inspiration and blessing. Every member of the team showed such positivity, patience, caring, compassion, and commitment to the families that were present. Their gregarious attitudes and attention to details to every individual adult or child was amazing. Every BOEC member I had the privilege to speak to one on one was inspirational. The entire team was and is at the top of their game.”

Thank You to Our Staff

In addition to positivity beaming from time spent with participants, our staff has experienced lots of success this summer. Katie O’Donnell, summer program Course Director and winter program Office Coordinator said the summer had been a wonderful journey full of so many adventures.  She continued, “I have faced challenges throughout the summer that allowed me to grow both as a course director and as a person. I’m incredibly grateful for all the wonderful experiences I’ve had with so many participants, volunteers, and fellow coworkers. I look forward to the adventures waiting next summer!”

Caleigh Sewell, a Winter Intern in 2021 who returned as a course instructor this summer, reminisced about how important it was that she had the opportunity to work with a variety of groups across a multitude of therapeutic outdoor recreation activities at BOEC.  She avowed, “The BOEC Wilderness Program has changed the way I’ve viewed accessibility in the outdoors. I am amazed at the variety of outdoor activities we are able to facilitate with participants and the ways each activity can be adapted to best fit an individuals’ needs. Thanks to the dedication of our staff and the determination of our participants at the BOEC, no limitation is too large for having a great time in the outdoors!”

Kendra Biery, started with BOEC as a 2021 summer intern and then moved on to join the BOEC ski instructor team that following season. This summer she served as a dedicated Wilderness staff team member overseeing day program logistics and course directing.  Kendra shared,  “I’ve had the privilege of working with a variety of groups this summer that we also work with in the winter, and getting to see people experience joy through so many activities is something I’m really grateful for. Being with our participants as they push through challenges that they didn’t think they could accomplish is amazing, and I’ve grown a deep love for getting to help facilitate those moments.”

What a Great Year!

Clearly the Challenge by Choice curriculum is showing success no matter what season or what group takes part in BOEC programming. Congratulations is due all around to the 2022 Summer Wilderness Program, to our returning and new groups, participants, and amazing staff who keep the magic of the BOEC alive year after year.

Longtime volunteer Bobby Yates enjoying time with a BIA participant

An adaptive cycling day at the Keystone Adaptive Center with our BIA participants

A fleet of BOEC rafts at the end of a day on the river