Park board looks at adaptive recreation

Meeting details ideas for people with disabilities

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 16. 2007 5:00AM PST

Beth Brown just moved to Central Oregon two weeks ago, but she was the only community member to show up at a Bend Metro Park and Recreation District meeting Sunday to discuss adaptive recreation, or programs for people with disabilities.

Despite the low turnout, ideas for how to help disabled people have more recreational opportunities were flying around the room at the Bend Senior Center on Sunday afternoon.

Brown brought along her two daughters, 6-year-old Kara, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and 3-year-old Jenna.

Brown, who lives in Tumalo with her husband and daughters, said she had stopped by Bend’s Juniper Swim & Fitness Center to sign up Jenna for swim lessons and find out about adaptive recreation classes for Kara when she saw a sign advertising Sunday’s meeting.

The ability to integrate Kara, who normally uses a stroller or walker, into more outdoor activities would make a big difference for her family, Brown said.

“We’ve had to be really creative in trying to find out ways for our life to be not a lot different than what it was beforehand, because we used to go camping and go boating,” she said. “We used to go camping all the time — we go once a year now because it’s so much work to take a kid with special needs.”

Brown, who is a triathlete, said that Kara has an adaptive tricycle and a special jogging stroller, but it would help to be able to borrow and try out more equipment. She uses an inflatable pool for Kara to sit in when they go to the beach and a mesh bath chair on their boat.

“Where are you going to put a wheelchair on the boat?” she asked. “Your environment is limiting what you can really do to make your life completely normal, so we’ve just worked really hard to do that as much as possible, and it’s usually using things that aren’t meant for special needs.”

Amber Blanchard, the therapeutic recreation coordinator for the BMPRD, said that she has $3,000 in her budget to buy more equipment for adaptive recreation, which was one of the reasons for Sunday’s meeting.

“That’s our goal, is to have a pool of the adaptive equipment,” Blanchard said. “I’m trying to figure out what to buy, and it’s the community’s money, so they need to tell me how to spend it.”

Blanchard added that Juniper Swim & Fitness already has a couple of adaptive flotation devices. Right now people with special needs can enroll in general park and rec programs, and the district just added a full-time therapeutic recreation specialist. There are also currently three college interns who are therapeutic recreation majors.

The meeting included a Power-Point presentation featuring different equipment people with disabilities can use for skiing, rock climbing, golfing, bicycling, kayaking and fishing.

“It was pretty much just our observations from being in Bend for the couple of months that we’ve been here, what people might be interested in,” said Ted Monroe, one of the district’s interns.

Brown suggested a program where the parents of kids with special needs could work out together while trained staffers looked after the children, and Blanchard said she would look into starting something similar at Juniper Swim & Fitness this winter.

“That’s a great idea for this community; this community rallies around recreation,” Blanchard said.

The BMPRD is asking those interested in adaptive recreation to fill out a survey about their needs. The survey can be found online at www.bendparksandrec.org or can be picked up at the district’s main office, Juniper Swim & Fitness Center or the Bend Senior Center.

“We have more people with special needs now coming in to Bend, so that’s why we wanted to do this, but I think a lot of people are really busy and especially on a beautiful Sunday afternoon,” Blanchard said. “We have to get a little bit more creative about getting people’s input.”

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