Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 23

Quadruple amputee continues
to inspire
By H.M. Cauley * Photos courtesy of the Aimee Copeland
Foundation

H

er story captivated the nation: An athletic, 24-yearold woman survives a zip lining accident only to lose
her right foot, left leg and both hands to necrotizing
fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection that destroys human tissue.
For Aimee Copeland, the reality of how drastically her life had
changed hit her full force as she lay in a hospital bed at Atlanta's
Shepherd Center eight years ago.
"It all started to sink in about
what my life was going to look like
being a power-chair user," says
Copeland, now 31. "I realized I wasn't
going to be doing 10-mile hikes in the
backwoods anymore."
Copeland also realized that other
people with disabilities probably
shared the same yearning to be out
in nature. "So I had an image in my
mind of starting a fully accessible wilderness center for people with disabilities. I was very idealistic."
But she soon concluded that such a goal was impractical.
"I didn't want to say something was just for people with
disabilities and then have nobody else show up," she says.

"Then there's the problem of navigating between nature and the
built world: How do you make it accessible without building a
lot of stuff, and then it's not natural anymore?"
Copeland switched gears to considering how existing natural areas could be made more accessible. She created the Aimee
Copeland Foundation, a volunteer organization in Atlanta that
collaborates with parks and nature
centers to improve their accessibility.
The foundation kicked off in 2016 with
an inclusive wellness festival, and free
quarterly wellness gatherings have
become a cornerstone of the mission.
"We're reaching capacity at all of
them," Copeland says. "It's so cool to
see people doing things they didn't
think were possible-reconnecting
-Aimee Copeland with the earth and their creativity."
Copeland also has become a
motivational speaker and advocate for outdoor accessibility.
That work has connected her with nonprofits such as Stone
Mountain-based Friends of Disabled Adults and Children and
Atlanta-based Tools for Life, organizations that aim to provide
assistive technology devices to Georgians with disabilities.
"I saw that people were already interested in the same
ideas, and that allowed me to see where the gaps were,"
Copeland says. "And people have also been reaching out to
me as well."
DeAnn Fordham, senior director of development and
marketing at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell,
was one of those who tracked Copeland down.

'It's so cool to see people
doing things they didn't
think were possible-
reconnecting with the
earth and their creativity.'

Opposite page, far left: Aimee Copeland always
has been an adventurer. She visited Switzerland in
2008, before the accident. Opposite page, bottom:
Copeland has found that she still can enjoy the
outdoors, including kayaking on the Hiwassee
River in Tennessee. Top: Katie Couric, left, interviews Copeland on Couric's talk show, "Katie," in
2012. Left: Copeland poses for a photo with her
boyfriend, Stephen Mercier, in 2016.
www.georgiamagazine.org

23


http://www.georgiamagazine.org

Georgia Magazine - February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - February 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 7
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 8
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 9
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 10
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 11
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 12
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 13
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 14
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 15
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 16
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 17
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 18
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 19
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 20
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 21
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 22
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 23
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 24
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 25
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 26
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 27
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 28
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 29
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Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 31
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Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 33
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 34
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 35
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 36
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 37
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 38
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover4
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