Woman hopes to make the outdoors accessible
Debra McDonald is hoping to expand her horizons – and those of other individuals with disabilities.
Diagnosed with MS in 1997, McDonald’s disease went into remission until 2003, when symptoms began to return.
She says she has suffered a rapid decline in the past two-and-a-half years.
“I can stand up for a couple of seconds,” she says, noting she worked in forestry for 20 years and has always been an avid outdoors enthusiast.
McDonald now gets out as much as possible in her electric wheelchair. She has a raised-bed garden and enjoyed many summer days there.
But McDonald would like to return to her beloved forest trails and she’s asking for help in making that dream come true.
McDonald applied to Aviva Community Grants for funding for several TrailRiders.
Referred to as a cross between a wheelbarrow and a rickshaw, the TrailRider is a specially designed wilderness access vehicle.
It is essentially a modified wheelchair with the ability to travel on hiking trails through the woods and up and down small hills with the aid of volunteers acting as “sherpas.”
A precision-made vehicle, engineered to the highest specifications, it has taken hundreds of people with disabilities to places they never thought were attainable.
“I would like to get three TrailRiders and provide opportunity within the disabled/ less mobile community,” says McDonald, who has started a non-profit society but needs help with the next steps.
“Everyone should have equal opportunity to visit the nature trails and view the birds, get fresh air, and have a social life.”
McDonald rented a TrailRider from Vernon for a week and two of her friends took her out “off-roading” three times.
“We tested it on gravel near the landfill and back into Broadview Villa park,” she says, noting her electric wheelchair cannot go on trails unless they are bone dry, and certainly not mountain trails – even places like Little Mountain Park are out of the question. “I had a grin from ear to ear the whole way. It was very safe, I felt secure. And it felt so nice to be out with friends.”
But McDonald maintains each trail trek would require more than two sherpas as it can be a strenuous effort.
“It is a workout, because I’m six feet tall,” she laughs, noting she would like to see the creation of an organization like Kelowna Community Resources’ adaptive adventures program that offers cycling, hiking, paddling and snowshoe outings.
McDonald says trips for disabled people have to be well thought out, planned and executed to meet needs around bathroom breaks and other issues.
McDonald’s non- profit association is known as ADAPTS (Adaptable Determination Adventure People TrailRider Society) and she recently created Community Recreational Initiatives Society, hoping to make an adaptive program and equipment available.
If you can help either with funding or volunteering to take disabled people onto the trails, or help with moving the organization forward, call Debra McDonald at 250-832-1353.
And check to see if McDonald made it to the second round of voting on the Aviva Community website at www.avivacommunityfund.or and vote for McDonald’s TrailRider project.