Where do I even start? The last six weeks have been a wild ride. I’ve had two trips, traveled to three states, worked with five incredible adaptive organizations, met 20 grant recipients, skied and mountain biked, visited too many food trucks, had lots of Shot Blocks, and visited the last Blockbuster in America. Oh yeah, and I can’t forget completing the Spring Grant Cycle ($380K to 105 recipients)!

Before we dive into my last few epic weeks, let me introduce myself to those of you who don’t know me! My name is Greg Durso and I’m the Program Director at the Kelly Brush Foundation (KBF) located in Burlington, Vermont. Exactly three years ago I left behind the commercial banking world in New York and joined this amazing organization. I knew how special this job was going to be, but I didn’t realize it would become my heartbeat as well. The adaptive sports community means everything to me. I love getting the opportunity to help grow, support and bring this community together – and my role at the KBF is to do just that. 

In an effort to reach more people who have suffered SCI, reach them sooner after their injuries and provide them with opportunities to try new sports and connect with others, we are expanding our programming beyond grants for adaptive sports equipment. It’s so fun to be able to host events and camps to bring people together and provide unique experiences that are life-changing for the participants. And, my whirlwind last six weeks was all about partnering with adaptive sports organizations to do just that.

Here’s the recap of my last two trips:

Trip 1: Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah 

I was able to spend a day at Neuroworx, a nonprofit outpatient facility providing innovative physical, occupational, and speech therapy for those with an SCI and other traumatic or neurological issues. I got one on one time with their patients with SCIs and then attended their adaptive sports fair with over 20 other organizations and 200 attendees. Then with Neuroworx, the National Ability Center (NAC), and Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS) we hosted 12 of our grant recipients for a monoski day at Park City. This was the most monoskiers many of our grant recipients have ever skied with. The excitement and giggle level were to the max. What a day we all had out there! 

Trip 2: Pacific Northwest – Bend & Seattle 

Stop one was Bend, Oregon with OAS (Oregon Adaptive Sports), a place I have wanted to visit for a long time. It was time for the KBF/OAS Pilot “Turns and Berms’ Camp, a brainchild that was developed at “Ski Spec” in December with Pat Addabbo (OAS Executive Director) and myself. Bend offers unique access to both great skiing and great mountain biking all in one place in April. So with six of our grant recipients that is what we did for three incredible days, skied Mt. Bachelor in the morning, tailgate lunch, and then mountain biked in the afternoon. As a unique experience as you can get in the adaptive world. OAS was amazing to partner with and their whole team and volunteers just get it. It was great to be around. We are all still on cloud 9 from this one with so many new friendships and memories. Did I mention Bend also has the last Blockbuster in America? Couldn’t pass up a visit there!

Stop two was in Seattle with Outdoors for All.  I had the chance to sit in on one of their board meetings and see all the amazing things they are doing for the adaptive sports community in Seattle. Being able to meet their board members as well as their whole team and seeing the passion and drive they have for their mission plus all the great programming they provide was so uplifting to see. I also had the great opportunity to work with them and Evergreen MTB Alliance (Washington state’s largest mountain bike association) on Outdoors for All’s adaptive mountain bike programming as well as talk about trail advocacy and inclusivity for adaptive riders. They also have a great handcycling program that with the help of the city of Seattle lets you rent a handcycle for free. Not to mention there is a great bike path that goes throughout the city.

Moments that stand out!

  • Being able to connect with a new patient at Neuroworx and letting him know that there are so many opportunities out there to get him active again and the equipment he could use to do that. Then watching him tear up as he thought about the possibilities with him and his family
  • Skiing with 12 of our grant recipients all over Park City with a total group of over 20 people
  • Watching everyone at our Turns and Berms camp progress their skiing and mountain biking. It was awesome to see Kipp Wesslen get off the carpet and head up to the big mountain and hear Danielle Watson hooting and hollering down the mountain
  • Watching Lizzy Raegan become more independent in her monoskiing while also crushing it on her adaptive mtb. I even got to be pushed out of my comfort zone by Anna Soens and Carl Brunette. They were able to get us pushed up the boot pack (yes physically pushed to the top of Mt. Bachelor in our monoskis by OAS and volunteers) to ski a line I was so scared of. They totally helped me through it and their joy in watching and helping me outweighed mine, which I didn’t think was possible. 
  • Having so many experiences where people in chairs were the majority instead of the minority. 
  • Plus so many more amazing memories I will never forget. We don’t get to have these chances and experiences very often and we have the power and opportunity to change that! 

A quote from one of our grant recipients:

“You guys frickin’ rock! It’s 10:30a on a Monday and I’m dreaming about last weekend. I’m having #stokewithdrawl. From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful. When I rolled in on Thursday and dropped off my bike I was excited but apprehensive. I had work on my mind and doubted as to whether I should taken time away. By the end of day 2, I had combusted in stoke. Driving home to Portland, the sun was setting over the mountains and the prairie were glowing. My cup was full with OAS and KBF stoke. I’m so grateful to have been invited. I’m so grateful for your patience with me, for your skill and genuineness, and for YOU the OAS and KBF team+”