The Not Forgotten veterans on a ski trip in Breckenridge.

The Not Forgotten veterans on a ski trip in Breckenridge.

Kirk of The Not Forgotten veteran group shared his experience after a ski trip with BOEC:

“I really cannot explain in words how important this trip has been for me and the newfound friends and colleagues along the way. This has included having the opportunity to discuss and share our journeys as veterans going forward with like-minded colleagues and friends to adventuring with one another in the spectacular winter wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. 

The trip has given me the confidence in feeling that I am still a valued member of society and given me a hook and motivation to achieve future goals that can only enhance my life and the lives of those that I am responsible for.” 

It is the stories and feedback like this that demonstrate the power of connecting with nature to heal and revitalize, which lies at the heart of all BOEC programming.  

There is no doubt that after organizing 30 years of programming tailored to veterans who have been injured in the line of duty, BOEC’s Heroic Military Programming makes a profound impact on veterans and their families who participate. This month we feature stories from our veteran participants as a way to honor their service, share their life-changing experience at BOEC, and kick-off our Memorial Day fundraising campaign to support BOEC’s Heroic Military Programming. 

Over the course of the last year, the Adaptive Ski and Snowboard and Wilderness Programs offered 680 program days to 185 veterans and their families. Long-standing relationships with veteran groups like The Not Forgotten, Semper Fi & America’s Fund, and Adaptive Adventures have been influential partners in our ability to serve military members. Thanks to generous donors like the First Nation Group, Limber Grove, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and many others, BOEC is able to provide adaptive outdoor experiences for veterans with a diverse range of abilities year after year. 

Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Program

During the winter season, the BOEC Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Program works with individual veterans and their families as well as veteran groups from across the US and UK. For the past 30 years, BOEC has been the local host of The Hartford Ski Spectacular, an event held in Breckenridge and organized by Move United. This event brings together over 800 athletes of varying abilities, from first-time skiers to elite adaptive athletes, including wounded military veterans, to ski in the mountains. BOEC also assists with the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, an annual event held in Snowmass, Colorado that offers training and rehabilitation to nearly 400 profoundly disabled veterans. Through adaptive sports, participants are empowered to challenge perceived limitations, enhancing their overall health and outlook on life.

Jack and a participant at The Hartford Ski Spectacular.

Jack and a participant at The Hartford Ski Spectacular.

The BOEC Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Program has made an incredible impact on many participants like Jack who shared his story with us. 

Jack was in the British Army, serving on multiple deployments over six years. He was a paratrooper throughout his army tenure and was among a high-achieving few who passed the intense training needed to serve in this challenging role. This dangerous yet exhilarating lifestyle is not unusual amongst his fellow service members and aligns with his mindset to seek out-of-the-ordinary challenges and adventures.

Like many military service members, he struggled with day-to-day life after completing his military service. At a particularly low point in his life, he was introduced to The Not Forgotten, a veteran-centric service charity serving the United Kingdom. As part of The Not Forgotten, he was invited to travel to the United States with other veterans in the group and try skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado. After enjoying skiing once before in Austria, he agreed to join the veteran ski trip with the BOEC. He recounts the experience saying,

“I found it quite intimidating at first and felt that I didn’t deserve to be there compared to others, but everyone was so welcoming and it was truly life-changing. The staff and instructors knew exactly how to deal with us and helped so much to get us skiing. It was inspiring to see how much of a difference they made to people. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more, so I asked them if there was any way that I could return.” 

Subsequently, Jack returned as a BOEC intern the next season giving him the chance to help others in a way that helped him so much the year before. When asked what skiing adds to his life, Jack shares how learning to ski well has been rewarding in numerous ways. This includes the ability to help others learn to ski, an important “living in the moment” mindset, the beauty one experiences, the fitness aspect, and the ability to focus so much on this new skill instead of ruminating on one’s thoughts. 

Wilderness Program

Between May and September, BOEC’s Heroic Military Program offers a series of river trips and retreats tailored for veterans and their families. The river trips offer veterans an optimal environment for reconnecting, learning new skills, forging new friendships, enjoying shared experiences, and unwinding. It provides a break from the usual daily routines and distractions, allowing participants to develop a deeper appreciation for one another and rediscover their inner strength and resilience as they journey through the picturesque canyons of the West. In addition to immersing themselves in the stunning wilderness, military raft trips are designed to assist veterans with mobility restrictions, ensuring inclusivity and support for all participants.

BOEC offers several custom-designed wilderness opportunities including exclusive women-only trips with a special curriculum to facilitate healing for female veterans and family experiences that incorporate the entire family into the recovery process for veterans.  All of our military programs create lasting memories and improved well-being as exemplified by the following stories.

Lisa and the Women’s Heroic Military River Trip group last summer.

Lisa and the Women’s Heroic Military River Trip group last summer.

Lisa, a recent participant of the Women’s Heroic Military River Trip shared her experience in this profound way.

In 1988, Lisa Maxwell enlisted in the US Army. She was deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan over the 28 years she served.  In August of 2023, Lisa participated in her first river trip with the BOEC along with a group of eight women. Over several days, they paddled down the Colorado River through the Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater Canyons, camping, hiking, and enjoying the beauty of their surroundings and the challenges this program presented.

Lisa explains,

“The staff were amazing. It was lovely being present in the moment. The here and now. Being present, nothing mattered but today. The past and the future didn’t really matter.” 

Lisa chose to join the BOEC military trip because it seemed like a fun adventure, and, as she explains, having a friend alongside her always makes things easier.  Her favorite part of the trip was the two hikes up the canyon as a side excursion. At the end of the trip, Lisa reflected on the impact this way,

“I was able to be present in the moment, enjoy the company of others, and find serenity.  I like the guided meditations that one of the staff members offered.  I saw the same impact in my friend.  I had never seen her so relaxed.” 

As a result, Lisa generously donated to the BOEC because, in her words, she “had a great experience and wants to make sure this program continues.” She explains that BOEC does great things for the people it serves and how she wants to help the organization thrive.

The Heroic San Juan River Trip group enjoying a beautiful day on the water.

The Heroic San Juan River Trip group enjoying a beautiful day on the water.

This powerful story is shared by one participant on a Heroic San Juan River Trip.

“Such as life should be, we never seemed to be in a hurry, yet accomplished what needed to be done. Each day was filled with the most amazing miracles only created with good hearts and nature. Nature’s sounds kept the chaos silent and made the world good again. I was made to feel strong again, in my mind, soul and body.

I did struggle each day feeling like I was in constant survival mode but this was on me and no one else. I was overwhelmed the first day and really really wanted to escape the situation but thanks to my daughter who understood the situation and Lydia with her calming voice and energy, I was able to overcome the anxiety. The energy, good hearts and understanding helped me reach my goal of life each day. I was overjoyed to see the changes in my kiddos. I couldn’t believe the strength, independence and courage they had shown. I can not say enough positive and encouraging thoughts about this team. I felt this was a new family to embrace. My heart misses the brief time we had together. I would love to embark on another adventure with this crew. Good energy from my heart to you all. Thank you with my whole existence.”

The story continues, “I know the non-visible wounds are at times more difficult to understand and I don’t blame anyone for not knowing how to handle every situation. I was grateful that I had my daughter as an advocate for me, to explain to others and help me when my brain was spiraling. This crew was above and beyond AMAZING!”

After three decades of BOEC Heroic Military Programming, BOEC has countless stories to share, which are featured on our website and blog here.

To learn more about this program, please click here.

One of the most significant parts of BOEC Heroic Military Programming is that we understand the challenges veterans who have been injured in the line of duty face, including financial burdens. As a result, we try our hardest to offer military programs free of cost to our participants and their family members, offering scholarships to attend. However, this means we need the support of valued partners and donors to help cover the $250K BOEC invests into Heroic Military Programming and our veterans annually. 

To donate to the Heroic Military Program, please click here.

We invite you to support BOEC so we can continue to provide life-changing experiences for veterans and continue the story.