Whether skiing or snowboarding in the Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Program, paddle boarding, kayaking, camping, or cycling in the Wilderness Program, there is one granting organization that has supported nearly every element of participant-facing BOEC programming.

This month’s Donor Spotlight features The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation (CHNF) which has been helping BOEC develop, implement, and sustain quality programming to inspire people living with a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), to discover outdoor adventure, learn new skills, and rekindle their spirit in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Inspired by their founder, Craig H. Neilsen, the Foundation is committed to changing the world for those living with spinal cord injuries. Their vision that individuals with spinal cord injuries, and those who care for them, live full and productive lives as active participants in their communities greatly aligns with BOEC’s mission to provide access to outdoor experiences for those living with a variety of challenges.

This is why the BOEC and CHNF have worked closely together to advance BOEC’s programming – and CHNF is making an impactful difference in helping us to improve curriculum, equipment, and infrastructure for both the BOEC Wilderness and Adaptive Ski and Snowboard programs.  In addition, CHNF funds provide generous scholarship funding for participants living with an SCI which further reduces barriers to participation.

If you find yourself venturing up to the BOEC Wilderness Campus in Breckenridge, you will notice accessible camping platforms dispersed throughout the property made possible by CHNF.  These accessible camping platforms have significantly enhanced program options for our participants with SCI and other mobility challenges.

Accessible camping platforms funded by CHNF at the BOEC Wilderness Site.

Along with funding the tent platforms they have played a significant role in the expansion of BOEC’s kayak and paddleboard program with a 2018 grant dedicated to the development of the challenge-by-choice curriculum; these programs are both dedicated to help participants with an SCI get out on the water and enjoy the outdoors. CHNF funded the entire project including staff time needed to develop curriculum, the purchasing of kayaks, paddle boards, and adaptive equipment to make water crafts more accessible and stable  and staff training to ensure that those who desire to adventure onto the high alpine lake located on the Wilderness Campus property could do so safely and successfully.  CHNF continues to sustain this program to this day and enthusiastic testimony from our participants, who never thought paddle-boarding was possible for them, shows just how successful it has become. Thanks to CHNF, and the expertise and commitment from the BOEC staff, hundreds of participants are able to enjoy these experiences.

A BOEC participant is assisted onto the Sol Paddle Board modified to safely and securely offer some fun out on the water!

BOEC summer staff training with a fleet of watercraft CHNF has helped fund.

The fun does not stop on the water or at the wilderness campus, however, as CHNF provides funding on wheels as well, both in helping to develop our adaptive cycling program and supporting the purchase of all-wheel-drive (AWD) passenger vans that allow us to transport participants safely and efficiently.

New support from CHNF is helping us expand our adaptive cycling program with a suite of adaptive bicycles at our Keystone Adaptive Center paired with experiential education and challenge-by-choice methodology. Our adaptive cycling program started in a parking lot in the early 2000’s and has grown to include organized road and trail rides across Keystone and Breckenridge. We aim to bolster handcycle options for our participants that have limited use of their legs. Funds from CHNF are allowing us to target and serve more students with lower SCI, double course time, and keep groups together.

BOEC is able to expand our Adaptive Cycling Programming thanks to support from CHNF.

Maintaining a safe and comfortable fleet of vehicles is crucial to our mission of expanding the potential of people through outdoor experiences. Our much-loved ADA-accessible vans transport our participants from the airport to BOEC and from BOEC to incredible locations in Colorado and Utah, where the adventure and learning take place.

Transportation for our participants is an ongoing critical need at BOEC and also the most costly for us to maintain. The purchase of another AWD passenger van to facilitate transfer from a wheelchair to the vehicle is essential as we continue to retire some of our oldest vans. BOEC’s fleet of vehicles and equipment are put to vigorous use season after season and are maintained to the highest standards to ensure the safety of our participants and staff. An important part of the maintenance plan is a strict replacement schedule as older vehicles and equipment come to the end of their useful lives.  CHNF understands this and we are extremely grateful for their continued support in maintaining our fleet. We have even named one of our vans Neil- thanks to NEILsen support!

Neil the van, named after Mr. Neilsen, the founder of CHNF.

BOEC participants inside one of our AWD passenger vehicles, like Neil.

As if adventure “by land” and “by water” were not enough, CHNF is also a tremendous supporter of “by snow” through BOEC’s Adaptive Ski and Snowboard program. In fact, funding received through grants from CHNF has allowed us to purchase multiple new bi-skis, mono-skis, outriggers, and other adaptive ski and snowboard equipment over the past 5 years, greatly enhancing our ability to serve those living with SCI who require the specialized equipment that will allow them the feeling to enjoy the thrill and freedom of downhill skiing.

Jeff Inouye teaches olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken how to ski.

BOEC participants getting great use of our various forms of adaptive ski equipment which CHNF helps fund!

Amy Van Dyken, 6-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, following an accident resulting in an SCI has reconnected with her athletic identity through skiing with the BOEC. She shares, “The BOEC is a lot more than just getting athletes back on the hill, back on the bike. As one of the athletes re-learning how to ski and get back on the bike, they are AMAZING am honored to be a part of the organization. I am so grateful to BOEC because BOEC gives us our lives back, not just to be an athlete, to be a normal human being, and feel how to relate to each other!”

Amy Van Dyken poses with her pup and Adaptive Ski Program, Jeff Inouye, and Executive Director, Sonya Norris.

Overall, we believe Mr. Neilsen would be proud of the opportunities BOEC offers for families and individuals living with chronic and traumatic spinal cord injuries to experience barrier-free, empowering outdoor recreation. We cannot thank this leading research and granting organization enough for expanding and sustaining BOEC’s programming!