The organization which came to be known as Adaptive Sports Partners of the North County had its start in August and September of 2009. A group of fifteen individuals got together and committed themselves to establishing an organization to provide opportunities in sports and recreation for persons with disabilities. They adopted the following principles:
- The new organization would work with all disabilities.
- It would provide services year-round.
- It would focus in a very concentrated way on the North Country of New Hampshire and Vermont.
- Its headquarters would not be at a ski area.
- It would develop strong working relationships with partner organizations for carrying out its mission.
- It would be a membership organization, characterized by openness.
Laying the foundation. The founders also knew they needed to accomplish a great deal of work if they were to be ready to start serving adaptive participants by October, 2009. In short order, they adopted a mission statement for the organization. They affiliated with AbilityPlus in Waterville Valley, with that group’s agreeing to serve as fiscal sponsor for ASPNC. They hired Sandy Olney as Executive Director. They found space for a Headquarters in Easton, New Hampshire. They wrote bylaws and identified people to serve on the first Board of Directors. They developed partnership agreements with local inns, service arrangements with local school systems and the human services agency Common Ground in Whitefield. They borrowed adaptive equipment from other adaptive organizations. They recruited and trained volunteers. They started an ambitious fundraising campaign. They registered as a corporation with the State of New Hampshire.
In December, Adaptive Sports Partners continued volunteer training. It began working with management of Cannon Mountain Ski Area to plan a pilot program for adaptive skiing and riding at that venue. At the end of the month the organization submitted its application to the Internal Revenue Service for recognition as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
On March 5, 2010, the Internal Revenue Service issued a determination letter stating that the IRS recognized Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Later in Spring 2010, Adaptive Sports Partners signed an agreement with Special Olympics New Hampshire to organize a Special Olympics team to be known as North Country United. It also entered an agreement with the US Olympics Committee to organize a Paralympics Sports Club in the North Country of New Hampshire and Vermont for the purpose of providing training for competitive adaptive athletes.
The organization was fortunate to have the services of an intern for the summer months. Justin May-West, a student at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, joined the group for ten weeks, assisting with all the summer offerings. Building on his interest in product design, he created an accessory vehicle to be used in tandem with one of the group’s recumbent trikes. He also helped build a bocce court at Headquarters where the North Country United Special Olympians trained in preparation for the Summer State Games.
Serving adaptive participants. The organization began serving adaptive participants in October 2009. During the first Autumn season the new group served eleven individuals, for thirty-two service sessions, offering biking, golf, hiking and nature walks.
Adaptive Sports Partners started offering a full array of cold-weather adaptive services in January 2010. Alpine skiing and riding were provided at Cannon Mountain. Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing were offered on numerous trails throughout the White Mountain National Forest, as well as at the Sunset Hill House and the Franconia Inn. Volunteers trained a group of athletes for Special Olympics from Lancaster Elementary School on racing tracks set up at Adaptive Sports Partners’ Headquarters, and at Cannon Mountain Ski Area, they trained an Alpine ski racer from Littleton High School. These athletes later competed in the Special Olympics Winter State Games at Waterville Valley, and they succeeded in medaling in each of their events. For this first cold-weather season the ASPNC served 60 participants, ages 6 to 55, for a total of 275 service sessions.
Spring marked the resumption of warm-weather sports and recreation services. The organization offered a full range of opportunities: paddling at Moore Reservoir and Echo Lake, biking on the path through Franconia Notch State Park, hiking in the National Forest, tennis at Franconia Inn, gardening and golf at Sunset Hill House, swimming at some indoor pools and later in summer at the Sunset Hill House outdoor pool. The North Country United team attended the Summer Games of Special Olympics New Hampshire, held at the University of New Hampshire. The team won gold medals in bocce competition. Throughout the busy season of April through September 2010, Adaptive Sports Partners provided 349 service sessions for 69 adaptive participants.
Fulfilling the mission. In August, the organization worked with adaptive participant Martin Wallem, a man with advanced symptoms of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Despite his disability, Mr. Wallem was determined to continue enjoying the outdoors, and his dream was to ascend Mt. Washington one more time. A group of ASPNC volunteers assembled at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road at 5:30 am on Sunday, August 15. Using a piece of specialized adaptive equipment called a TrailRider, the volunteers, Mr. Wallem, his family and medical support team reached the summit at 9:45 am. The experience exemplified the statement in ASPNC’s mission that, for a person with a disability, the opportunity to experience the thrill of accomplishment can be a life-affirming experience.
A preliminary count of service statistics for the first 12 months showed 79 participants, and a total of 656 service sessions. As ASPNC completed its first year of providing opportunities in sports and recreation for persons with disabilities, it frequently heard from participants “You’ve enabled me to do things I never thought would be possible!” Comments such as these affirm that the Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country was succeeding in carrying out its mission. It looked forward to continuing to fulfill that mission for many years to come.