The Weekly - July 21, 2020 - Cover3

Field Notes

Sean Hill

I N S P I R A T I O N

The Power
of Inclusion

Adaptive Adventures goes into disabled athletes'
communities to help them find the power in the
outdoors that unites us all. By Craig DeMartino

CO U R T E SY C R A I G D E M A R T I N O

INCLUSION. IT'S A WORD I HEAR

tossed around a lot in the outdoor
industry. Not so much at the cliffs
or trails or on the water, but in
panel discussions where the benefits of it are discussed so that we
can make the outdoors more, well,
inclusive. I have seen firsthand
how inclusion can work in our
industry on many levels. But, at
the end of the day, those talks have
to happen in the outdoor world. If
we don't put it into practice, all the
protests, hate speech, and lack of
humanity will continue to exist.
I work with a nonprofit based in
Denver called Adaptive Adventures. We focus on getting people
with physical disabilities active
again and involved in some form
of outdoor pursuit. For me, being
a lifelong climber, that means
introducing anyone who wants to
learn and grow how to climb. We
don't recruit people from underserved communities, but rather we
go and join them where they are so
we can give them tools to be able
to continue the sport.
I begin most of my programs in
climbing gyms. We work with a lot
of veterans through a VA Adaptive Sports Grant, and we are able
to pay for all gym fees for vets, as
well as scholarships for those civilians who can't pay. I say we don't
recruit because, to us, everyone is

welcome, despite having challenging pasts, presents, and the
grind of adapting to a body that
will never be the same. By being
in their communities, it isn't me
recruiting to have certain ethnic
numbers, it's me and Adaptive
Adventures integrating ourselves
into their community and helping
them navigate the disability world
in which they find themselves.
My climbers come in all colors,
ethnic backgrounds, ages, and
disabilities-and I love it. As
a person with a disability-I'm
an amputee-it's a wonderful
world to be a part of. I get to work
beside some of the best people
I've ever met simply by looking at
them as humans.
WHEN I SIT IN THE PANEL DISCUS-

sions, I hear a lot of ideas put
out, ways to engage underserved
people, but they sometimes feel
like hollow promises. I don't
always get to see these ideas put
into action. I, or we, don't have
all the answers, but the one we do
have is that the person in front
of you on any given day could be
having the worst day of their lives,
and we, as outdoor leaders, have
the ability to help another human
find some peace through the natural world. To be able to introduce
climbing to them at a low point in

IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT NUMBERS; IT'S ABOUT
CONNECTIONS, AND WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO
CONNECT WITH SO MANY ON SUCH A COOL AND
UNIQUE PLATFORM.

their lives is like a powerful drug
to me; it seeps into the very marrow of my bones and energizes me
to find a way, any way, to get the
person outside climbing.
All outdoor sports have true
power to engage any person-it
just takes the right people or organizations to be willing to step into
these areas and make the offer.
Not a charity-far from it-
we offer them a doorway to healing both physically and mentally.
That power is what we at Adaptive
Adventures really see and believe
in. That opportunity to teach the
human next to me about the benefit that comes from being present,
purposeful, and engaged can lead
them to new places-places they
may have not known existed.
In order to do that, we have to
first recognize there is an uneven
playing field filled with uppermiddle-class white athletes. I
happen to be one of those people,

and I am very aware of the
privilege I had growing up, but
that shouldn't stop me, or another
person, from reaching out and being human. By connecting on that
level, we empower those around
us to be independent and confident as they experience whatever
sport we are teaching. We get to
include them in our fun, and that
can change lives. It's not always
about numbers; it's about connections, and we have the ability to
connect with so many on such a
cool and unique platform.
That, to me, is inclusion. That,
to me, is the power of the outdoor
community.
Craig DeMartino is Adaptive Adventures' climbing manager and
a two-time national Paraclimbing Champion. Adaptive Adventures is a finalist in the nonprofit
category in this week's Outdoor
Retailer Inspiration Awards.

OUTDOOR RETAILER SUMMER 2020 / THE WEEKLY 29



The Weekly - July 21, 2020

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