All Out Adventures adjusts to virtual recreation

  • Russ Mayhew removes packing from a Trident Trikes recumbent tricycle before assembling it, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at the Quadrini workshop in Florence. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Russ Mayhew assembles a Trident Trikes recumbent tricycle, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at the Quadrini workshop in Florence. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Russ Mayhew puts the rear wheel on a Trident Trikes recumbent tricycle, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at the Quadrini workshop in Florence. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Russ Mayhew rides a Trident Trikes recumbent tricycle, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 outside Quadrini workshop in Florence. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Russ Mayhew puts the rear wheel on a Trident Trikes recumbent tricycle, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at the Quadrini workshop in Florence. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 5/27/2020 4:58:02 PM

With the temperature heating up and summer on the horizon, Pioneer Valley residents and recreational organizations alike are gearing up for what outdoor activity will look like as state restrictions are being phased out.

One such organization is All Out Adventures, which has taken on a unique role during the current pandemic: as a beacon of support to people with disabilities, their top priority is ensuring that the community behind them feels safe in participating in their future programs and activities.

For now, though, with the exception of their recumbent tricycle shop (open by appointment every other Saturday beginning May 30), all of All Out Adventures’ adventures are happening virtually. Their Statewide Head Injury Program, a program dedicated to fostering community for survivors of traumatic brain injury, has met every Tuesday on Zoom since late March.

At 12 p.m. sharp, participants log on and chat with other members of the group for about a half hour, after which the participants head outside for independent recreational activity. After a couple of hours outdoors, participants head back inside for a Zoom discussion of everyone’s adventure.

Though the physical aspect of the meetings is gone, executive director Karen Foster is amazed at how the community has persisted virtually throughout the crisis.

“I’ve been doing this work for 15 years, and it has just been so incredibly touching to be a part of these virtual programs,” Foster said. “Typically, the same people will show up to our in-person programs on a weekly basis, so they already know each other very well. It has been so incredibly moving to see all of their faces on the Zoom screen, and to see them wave to each other and share about their day and what they’re doing … it’s really been fantastic.”

An unforeseen benefit of the virtual programming, according to Foster, has been the reduced physical barrier to participation for the group. Transportation can be an issue for some participants to attend in-person meetings, but in the digital realm, they only need a computer or phone. Foster hopes to continue virtual call-ins as a viable option for participants even after physical meetings resume, a transition that doesn’t have a solidified timeline yet.

While many outdoor courts and recreational activities were reopened with the most recent phase on May 25, and more will open in the next phase, All Out Adventures plans on operating under a different reopening timeline to ensure the safety of their program participants, many of whom may be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

“We are working with a population that is not the same population that other recreation businesses are serving, so we are being much more cautious and slow about how we restart in-person,” Foster said.

Much of that effort has been dedicated to collecting feedback from the community they serve. Last week, All Out Adventures sent a survey to email subscribers asking about the precautions they were taking during these times and the support they would want regarding outdoor recreation this summer. According to Foster, the survey has already received over 100 responses.

A common concern from the pool of feedback is the issue of overcrowding — often the most accessible outdoor trails and activities are the most busy. Finding less-crowded experiences this summer will be a priority for All Out Adventure, with one such idea being “virtual” guides through state parks and trails.

“We have a number of program participants who could take a hike independently, but are afraid to,” Foster said. “So if we’re there in the park in contact with them on a radio but not physically with them, it’s a safe virtual support.”

To be able to create these supports and resume regular programming when it’s safe to do so, All Out Adventures set out a six-month operating cost fundraising goal of $42,810. As of this week, they’ve raised over $30,000 to that end.

“People from all corners, with very small and very large donations, have come together and are sustaining us,” Foster said. “I have hope that this will sustain us to where we’re able to resume normal programming. It’s really incredible.”

While All Out Adventures’ own transition back to the outdoors is still in the works, Foster emphasized the overall importance of safe recreational activity and their dedication to making sure that happens for their community.

“The health benefits of being outside and active are extraordinary. And we’re working really hard to work out how we can support people in accessing those benefits.”

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