When a group of people who all have spinal cord injuries get together, there is never a lack of conversation. We share our stories that only each other can fully appreciate and relate to. We compare notes on how we do things in our life or funny mistakes we’ve made. The benefits of getting together like this are invaluable, but it’s not every day that these opportunities come along.

Edie, Greg (the KBF program director) and I have had a lot of conversation about how we can help people earlier on their journey from injury to independence, and one that we’ve always wanted to try out was introducing camps. A couple weeks ago we finally got to see that become a reality. At our first ever mountain bike camp we had 8 campers who came from across the country and covered a range of how long they had been injured.

One person I want to highlight is Skye. She sustained a spinal cord injury just about a year ago while mountain biking. I was introduced to her shortly after her injury and we’ve been in touch over the last year and I was so excited for her to join our camp. Mountain biking was her favorite thing to do before she got hurt, whether by herself or with friends, she was always biking. Our camp not only allowed her to get back into the woods and on the trails that she knew so well, she was also able to try different adaptive bikes to figure out what kind worked the best for her. Beyond that, she saw people who have been biking for years so she could see and imagine what it could look like for her. It gave her hope and got her excited about life in a way that little else could.

Mountain biking is what brought us together, but we spent a lot of time talking about the parts of life that no one else knows about or can help with. What kind of bench or chair we sit on in the shower, the type of cushion we use on our wheelchair, the horribly burning nerve pain (that thankfully goes away for most people).

While we all have settled into our routines at home, this camaraderie and community is invaluable. We all spent hours on our bikes learning from each other, but watching each camper’s confidence grow in their biking, you could also see them become more comfortable with the group and more open to sharing about their life and learning from others.

These conversations and opportunities need to be organic. At the KBF we have set a strategy to provide more meaningful support from injury to independence, and the camp we held was a perfect example of how we can foster these opportunities.

It was also just a blast! We had perfect fall weather and beautiful foliage. We spent 4+ hours on the bike each day. The last day we did downhill at Burke (which means we took the chairlift up and biked down) which was an amazing learning experience for everyone! Edie, Greg and I left the camp determined to do more of them because of how fun and impactful it was. And now all I want to do is mountain bike!

In case you missed it, make sure to check out the recap video from the event – if only to be jealous of the foliage.