Trying to make the outdoors accessible

Aviva Community Fund: Campaign to purchase TrailRiders needs online votes.

On the move: Grant McDonald and Cheryl Hillocks take Debra McDonald for a ride on a specially designed TrailRider at Little Mountain Park.

It’s time to click again – and again, and again – for the next 13 days.

Avid outdoors fan Debra McDonald’s proposal to the Aviva Community Fund for TrailRiders has made it through to the third round and the woman whose love of the forest has been severely restricted by the effects of MS is hoping she’ll make it through to the semifinals.

And that will take a lot of voting from now until the third round ends Monday, Nov. 26

Described as a cross between a wheelbarrow and a rickshaw, the TrailRider is a specially designed wilderness access vehicle.

It’s 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 two volunteers referred to as “sherpas” – one at the front and one at the back.

It has taken hundreds of people with disabilities to places they never thought were attainable – including a joyful McDonald who was taken for a hike through Little Mountain Park.

“It was the best day of my new life,” she said last Thursday, looking with happy anticipation at another outing on Saturday. “It’s the first time I’ve been in the woods in three years.”

The former forestry worker is also excited about the support she has received, including television coverage she says was prompted by an Observer story.

McDonald is hoping support will remain strong in order to carry the TrailRider project into the semifinals.

At every stage of the voting, a number of projects proceed to the semifinals, based on criteria such as sustainability as well as number of votes.

In round one, 85 projects made it to the semifinals with 80 each moving ahead in rounds two and three. One winner will be chosen in each of the cash categories, with McDonald applying in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.

“Unfortunately, we have to go to round three, so please vote again,” she says, noting every semifinalist receives $5,000. “I’d like to get to the semifinals, that would be awesome because that would be a big chunk of one TrailRider.”

Supporters can vote once a day per email account.

Interest in the TrailRider is growing and McDonald was looking forward last Thursday to a visit from two other people with limited mobility who were going to give the equipment a whirl.

While she’s counting on voter support, McDonald is not idly waiting. She has been seeking support from other community groups, including Shuswap Tourism and the Community Foundation.

“I’ve got my cell phone in hand and I’m surfing and typing, just trying to go forward,” she says, hoping the Shuswap can acquire at least three of the TrailRiders.

To volunteer to act as a sherpa, or to help make McDonald’s other dream of getting an adaptive adventure group up and running in the area, call her at 250-832-1353.


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