OAKLAND, Maine — A nonprofit organization that provides Mainers of all abilities opportunities to learn outdoor skills is expanding with a new center in Brunswick.
The Adaptive Outdoor Education Center, which features an overnight lodge, is based in Carrabassett Valley. The center provides programming that teaches participants water skiing, rock climbing, cycling, sailing, rowing, and alpine sports including downhill skiing.
Annemarie Albiston's father Andre suffered a stroke back in 2005. He lost his ability to communicate, a condition known as aphasia. She and her husband, Bruce, founded the Aphasia Center of Maine in 2012 to provide annual retreats for aphasia patients. The couple was inspired to start the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center, utilizing their own time and money to improve the lives of people of all abilities several years later.
"They are on an alpine race team with us, they are climbing otter cliffs at Acadia going over the water. They are doing amazing, amazing things," Annemarie said.
Amazing things such as gliding across the water in an adaptive sit-ski. Recently, 9-year-old Kellan Tilton joined other participants at Camp Tracy on McGrath Pond in Oakland.
Kellan was born with neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor that begins in nerve tissue. Right after his birth, a tumor was removed from his spine, and chemotherapy put him in remission. But the disease left him paralyzed from the waist down.
"I am in a wheelchair and I can't walk, but I get to do all this amazing stuff," Kellan said.
"There is no 'I can't,'" Kellan's dad, Dan, said. "He proves he can do it and these guys give us the opportunity. It's awesome, we love it."
Volunteers, who often utilize adaptive equipment, teach about 750 participants annually in locations throughout Maine. The center also offers camps and music programs. Registration for a number of the program requires a small fee.
Tristan Bouchard, 19, was born with a brain condition that causes seizures and developmental delays. His parents say his confidence has soared by learning new skills.
"We were told when Tristan was born, he wouldn't walk or talk or anything. This program focuses on what he can do and he loves it," said Amy Bouchard, Tristan's mom.
The nonprofit is expanding with a second location in Brunswick. The new day program facility features a fully accessible event center and more than 5 acres of trails and gardens.
Set to open officially in September, fly fishing classes are already ongoing. Theater, art, crafts, and cooking classes are expected to be offered at its Brunswick campus.
Click here for information on how to contact the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center.