Recently, I got to experience one of the highlights of my year as I returned to the No Barriers Summit. This year’s summit took place in Copper Mountain, Colorado from July 23 through the 25. As our time to leave was approaching I couldn’t help but reflect on the life-changing experience that occurred for me at this event last year. It truly reshaped how I feel about getting out of my comfort zone and I was pushing to build off of that experience this go around. I did just that.
Joining me once again on this amazing journey was my mom and my three friends Kari, Keri, and Timmy. Tagging along with us this year was my dad. I was so excited to have him there to experience all of the incredible things that the summit provides the participants. He got to see me do some remarkable activities.
On the first day of the summit I participated in a session around neuro movement. Neuro Movement is the practice of retraining your brain on how your body works through small social movements. The sessions made me feel so good and taught me about dealing with pain. I enjoyed this session so much that I went back several times during my downtime throughout the week and had more one-on-one sessions done. I definitely plan on trying to continue this treatment.
While at the summit I also had the chance to try archery again. This is an activity that I’ve picked up recently here at home but I wanted to continue to try and develop my skills with this activity. We were out there for quite a long time as we shot for three hours. I can’t shoot an arrow the typical way, so I have to use my mouth to help drawback and fire it. I started off the day pretty awesome by hitting several of my first few targets. As the day progressed I started dealing with fatigue and was not as accurate with my shots. Even though I was getting slightly frustrated I kept trying to improve. I would hit some targets here and there, but overall I just enjoyed the experience.
As the session was coming to a close they allowed each of us fire a crossbow. The power behind this bow was absolutely incredible. It felt so exhilarating to fire that weapon. One of the nice features of the bow was that it had a laser site that made it easy for aiming. I was able to pop a balloon that was placed on the target with my second shot. I felt like Rambo. During this whole event my dad was grinning ear to ear seeing what I was accomplishing with a bow and arrow. It was great to have him see me doing that.
Later that day Timmy and I ventured over to the aquatic center to participate in a scuba seminar. I have never been scuba diving before. This was probably the most fun thing I did at the summit this year. Every year when I go to No Barriers I always try to do at least one thing that will completely take me out of my comfort zone. This year, that event was scuba.
Staff helped me transfer from my wheelchair into the pool, which was heated by the way, to get started. They actually put the equipment on you in the water to make it a little bit easier. The biggest challenge I quickly learned about was learning how to breathe with the regulator. Your instinct is to panic under water, but you are supposed to take huge deep breaths and trust that the regulator will breathe for you. It felt surreal to be able to explore under the water with such freedom. Timmy would flash me a thumbs up underwater and I can tell that he, too, was enjoying the experience. I’m glad he and I were able to share this adventure together. I would love to continue trying to learn how to become better at scuba. I felt so empowered taking part in that activity.
On the last day of the summit I took part in a wheelchair self-defense class. I wanted to do this to learn a few ways to defend myself if I ever got into a sticky situation. A lot of what we learned revolved around hand-to-hand combat techniques that could be used in case you felt threatened by someone. Your first tactic is to try and de-escalate the situation by telling the individual that you don’t need any help or want trouble. If that doesn’t work, then you try to gain the upper hand by getting them in a position where they are less likely to hurt you. My class had two people in wheelchairs as well as someone who has a visual impairment. It was great seeing how you can use momentum in your environment to protect yourself. I hope to continue doing some self-defense training in the future.
One of the best parts of the summit, to me, is the people. This could range from the speakers to the other participants to the family members that come along for the ride. I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Kyle Maynard, who is somebody who lives with no limbs. He is a remarkable person who has climbed some of the tallest mountains and taken part in an MMA style flight. We have stayed connected after the summer and I know that he is someone that I will lean on for advice regarding my consulting work or life’s struggles.
I’m also reminded of some of the other participant’s like Cole who has joints that don’t bend, like a normal elbow or knee. In spite of this, he was able to go on a group hike, and with the assistance of an off-road wheelchair, climbed to the top of a mountain in Colorado. The support that Cole, I and all of the other participants of the summit receive while there is truly what makes this program so special. You are a part of an environment that is so supportive and encourages everyone get out of their comfort zone. With the thought of always trying to do something a little bit bigger out of my comfort zone every year and seeing a video of Cole’s adventure on the mountain, I have challenged myself next year to climb up a mountain using an off-road wheelchair.
I am truly trying to live the No Barriers motto of “what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way” I would strongly encourage anyone who lives with the disability or who wants to get more out of their life, to consider attending the No Barriers Summit. I promise you, it will change your life as much as it has mine. If you would like to learn more information about No Barriers visit their website HERE
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