Wildcat Followup

Wildcat Followup

March 1, 2021 Off By Hawkeye Johnson

The availability of adaptive equipment is one of the biggest barriers for people with disabilities.

By Helena Burger …

In the summer of 2015, I hiked my first 20 miles at 9 years old to raise money for the GoHawkeye Foundation. At the time, it was a fun way to spend my time in Telluride, Colorado, and gave me a great sense of accomplishment. I recently learned more about how the money we raised went to purchase handcycles for Oregon Adaptive Sports and Teton Adaptive Sports.

Emeri testing the Wildcat (Courtesy photo).

Wildcat handcycles are off-road handcycles built for youth by ReActive Adaptations based in Crested Butte, Colorado. They allow younger individuals with mobility impairments to more successfully venture off-road onto trails or forest service roads. The children who use them are typically 8 to 12 years old.

I interviewed Pat Addabbo from Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS) to learn how they use the Wildcat Handcycle. Oregon Adaptive Sports is a non-profit organization based in Bend, Oregon that provides life-changing outdoor experiences for individuals with disabilities. Their goal is to increase access to the outdoors by providing year-round outdoor programs, such as skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and mountain biking and rock climbing in the summer. People may sign up or borrow the equipment at any time. In the summertime, they offer private lessons and drop-in clinics. The Wildcat Handcycle is one of five adaptive handcycles that they have at OAS, and they usually last about seven years. Over the summer, Oregon Adaptive Sports serves about 200-300 unique individuals with disabilities.

Kenji on a Wildcat handcycle with Oregon Adaptive Sports in Bend, OR. (Photo courtesy Oregon Adaptive Sports).

I also interviewed Christy Fox from Teton Adaptive Sports (TAS). Teton Adaptive Sports, like most outdoor recreation programs, is a chapter of Move United. TAS started with the integration of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski school, and they have expanded the model, so instead of doing their own separate program for people with disabilities, they integrate people with disabilities into sports programs for people with all abilities. For example, they started sled hockey for 5 years, and then ultimately integrated it with a Jackson Hole youth hockey program so that it was not just a program for people with disabilities. They believe if you do not integrate that there is an element of segregation that is not as beneficial for athletes with disabilities and not equal or equitable. They try to make all of their adaptive bikes available to as many people as possible. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has mountain biking lessons and access to Teton Adaptive Sports’ bikes that they borrow from them depending on the clients’ needs. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort also loans out the bikes to families who are able to manage riding with their children and riding off-road. Teton Adaptive Sports does demo days as well for people who are new to hand-cycling or 3 wheel bikes and provide one-on-one skills progressions and practice using the bikes. They also participate in a mountain bike festival with about 600 participants for people of all abilities every year.

There are usually about 20 to 30 kids who use the Wildcat Handcycle per year. The ability for kids with disabilities to participate in school sports is important to Teton Adaptive Sports. An example Christy gave of this is allowing a child in a wheelchair to participate in ice skating with his classmates. In order to do this, Teton Adaptive Sports came and met them and brought him a sled. With the sled, he was able to participate in the games all of his friends were playing.

Wildcat Handycles are valuable to Teton Adaptive Sports because it enables kids with disabilities to participate with their friends or family in group activities. The son of a man who had been recently paralyzed was very excited to try the wildcat because he wanted to be like his dad, although he didn’t necessarily need the handcycle for a disability. Stories such as these show the bond that these handcycles can create.

The GoHawkeye Foundation based in Telluride, Colorado is an all-volunteer non-profit that provides financial grants for equipment and experiences to adaptive athletes and adaptive organizations. Hawkeye Johnson raises money by hiking long distances every year.

The availability of adaptive equipment is one of the biggest barriers for people with disabilities. By providing access to things like this handcycle, it significantly improves the lives of people with disabilities. I am honored to have been able to help raise funds to purchase the bikes and I hope to be able to challenge myself to hike for GoHawkeye again this summer. Maybe 40 miles this time?!