In Kelly’s Words – More than just a skier!
I’m often asked “I know you’re a skier, but what do you do in the summer?”
Yes, I was a competitive ski racer and it’s how I sustained my injury (which is why the KBF has a smaller aspect of our mission dedicated to ski racing safety), but as there are for everyone, there are way more opportunities to get active in the summer!
The short answer is biking, golfing, swimming—pretty much the same things. But I also get that the more interesting answer is how I do these things.
Biking. Sure, I’m not balancing on two wheels on the kind of bike you’d normally picture, but I use a three-wheeled handcycle that I pedal with my arms. This is actually a very common activity for people with spinal cord injuries and mobility issues generally because of how accessible it is. You can do it out of your garage on any road. Finding the time to fit in all of my activities, that’s a different (but good) problem…
Golf. This one’s a bit tougher to explain, so definitely check out the video below! I have a three-wheeled golf cart that I steer with a joystick (kind of like a power wheelchair). The seat sits in the front of the cart and can be brought into a standing position when it’s time to address and hit a ball. Because I don’t have any abdominal strength, I only swing with my right arm while hanging on for dear life with my left arm. The cart is specially designed to work on any surface (including the green). It’s a pretty awesome piece of engineering!
Swimming. People often wonder if I can swim on my own and how it works. Like a lot of things in my life since my spinal cord injury, I have just figured it out! I learned shortly after my accident that I can swim without any flotation device. I just use my arms and my legs float along behind me. I often will use a floaty noodle to make it more comfortable but I certainly don’t need it. I swim in the lake, pools, and in my parents’ pond, which I’ve swam in since I was a kid. While it’s sometimes a bit of a challenge to get in and out, I’m always so happy to be in the water.
Camping. Camping is another activity that I love in the summer. It was something I did every summer as a kid and I have always wanted my daughter, Dylan, to do the same thing. I wrote a blog about camping last summer, you can read that here. We went camping again a couple weeks ago and had a great time. With Dylan a year older it was definitely easier but still presented its challenges (Dylan woke up at 4:30am!). But we were out in nature, sleeping in tents, canoeing on a river, riding bikes along a trail, and just enjoying summer in Vermont!
Hiking. This is something I genuinely miss. Growing up I loved to hike. My mom used to hike up Camel’s Hump (the second tallest mountain in Vermont) and it would take us all day. She would pack lunch and when we finished we would swim in the river at the bottom. I miss hiking because of the childhood memories but also because of the social and exercise benefits that I sometimes feel I’m missing out on. To ease a bit of that sting, I did get an off-road handcycle last summer (you can read my blog here about why I got it and why I love it), though it really only gives me access to flatter, smoother terrain. For those reading in Vermont, I was able to get up Snake Mountain near Middlebury (with some difficulty), but that is about as aggressive terrain as I can do with it.
So the answer is I do a lot in the summer! And as for anybody, the challenge is just finding time! Of course, one thing I always try to emphasize is how expensive access to this kind of equipment is. In this blog alone I talk about over $40,000 in adaptive sports equipment. The prohibitively high cost of adaptive equipment is exactly why I started the Kelly Brush Foundation – so that we could help other people with spinal cord injuries purchase the adaptive equipment they need to experience the outdoors and the sports they love. I hope you’ll join us on Sept. 8 at the Kelly Brush Ride to help make an active and independent lifestyle available to others!
Since we have been swimming so much because of the heat, we’ve been trying to get Dylan to swim with us. She’s pretty timid. She definitely won’t jump in the water and when she is in the water with us she has to be only on quite tight or she starts to get pretty freaked out. But even in the few days of the heat she has been getting more comfortable. Just in the last week she has gone from not wanting to jump in at all to repeatedly jumping in off the side and not wanting to stop even when she is shivering with blue lips! She will be at the pool or at the lake a lot this summer so I suspect she’ll get even more comfortable with the water with time. Definitely fun to watch!