By Mac McLean • The Bulletin

If you go

What: Tour de Summer: OAS’ Summer Program Kickoff Party

When: 4:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: OAS Headquarters, 63025 O.B. Riley Road, Suite 12, Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: 541-306-4774

James Fredericks will do his best to beat last year’s time — a number he couldn’t think of off the top of his head — when he takes his kayak around the Pole Pedal Paddle’s canoe/kayak course this afternoon as part of Team ONWARD!

He’ll park his boat on the shore, make a handoff to the team’s sprinter and then climb back into his wheelchair and head to the competition’s finish line to take part in some post-race festivities.

“I’m looking forward to doing more with Oregon Adaptive Sports this year,” said Fredericks, who broke his neck surfing in December 2000.

Fredericks will have his chance to do just that. This summer, OAS will host a full series of events that will give people who have disabilities a chance to play golf, go hiking, float the river and ride a bike.

“We’re really excited to see our programs grow,” said Lucy Swaffield, the organization’s summer program director.

Swaffield said OAS has spent three years coming up with ways to give people with disabilities a chance to take part in some of Central Oregon’s most popular summer sports. The group will launch these new programs with an open house less than a week after it helps four teams of disabled athletes take part in today’s competition (See “If you go”).

The activities

Since it was founded in 1996, Oregon Adaptive Sports has helped hundreds of people with disabilities enjoy Central Oregon’s winter activities by offering adaptive skiing lessons at Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo ski resorts.

But because Central Oregon’s outdoor recreation opportunities don’t disappear when the snow melts off the mountains, the group started looking at ways it could make the region’s most popular summer activities accessible as well.

Toward that goal, OAS borrowed a set of handcycles — bicycles that can be powered by a person’s arms instead of their legs — from a Phoenix-area group in 2012 and offered a few clinics on how to use them.

The group then teamed up with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, where Fredericks works, and Wanderlust Tours last year to give participants a chance to take kayaks and canoes out on the Deschutes River and nearby lakes.

“Biking and kayaking are so popular here,” said Swaffield, who has been working with the organization’s summer activities program for the past two years. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone in our community to do that.”

Because the first two years of OAS’ summer program were part of a pilot phase, the organization kept its offerings limited to one-day clinics designed to gauge interest and figure out how programs should be structured, Swaffield said.

“This is the first year we are doing really full programs,” she said, explaining that as part of the expansion, people with disabilities will not only have more opportunities to get outside — they’ll also have a more structured way to do it.

For instance, she said OAS is offering its participants a chance to take part in multi-session handcycling and kayaking lessons in an effort to improve their skills over time.

OAS is also offering more adaptive golf clinics at the Awbrey Glen golf course this summer, as well as a four-day summer camp for children with disabilities, a pair of hikes on the accessible trail at Sparks Lake, and a family float trip on the Deschutes River in a canoe or kayak.

Each of these activities reminds people they can still get outside and enjoy themselves regardless of their disability. They can also inspire people to take on new challenges like the Pole Pedal Paddle.

The competition

Fredericks took part in the Pole Pedal Paddle about a dozen times, both as an individual and as a member of a team, before he broke his neck more than 13 years ago.

“Early on, not being able to compete in the Pole Pedal Paddle wasn’t really on my mind,” Fredericks said; he was too busy dealing with other injury-related consequences to give the event much thought.

But eventually, Fredericks decided to compete with other disabled athletes on an OAS-sponsored team. This year’s competition marks the fifth time the organization has organized a PPP team and the third time Fredericks has been a part of it.

“It’s a pretty important event for adaptive athletes,” said Geoff Babb, who has used a wheelchair since he had a stroke in 2005 and organized OAS’ first team in 2009. “It gives us the opportunity to get out with people who are in a similar situation.”

Babb said OAS’ four teams — True Grit, No Boundaries, the Can Do Crew and ONWARD! — will feature at least one participant with a disability. One team will be led by an 8-year-old girl who will do the downhill skiing portion of the race before handing the baton off to a blind teammate who will tackle the rest of the competition’s segments with a guide. Another team will finish its race by sending a girl with spina bifida down the sprint leg in a wheelchair.

Babb said people come from all over the state to take part in an OAS Pole Pedal Paddle team.

While they may not win awards or place near the top of the finishers, the adaptive teams still enjoy coming together and competing in the event, Babb said. They’re also thankful they’ve got OAS to support them.

“It’s one of the more inspiring days of the year,” said Babb, who will handle downhill skiing for ONWARD! this year. “We have so many people who didn’t even imagine being out there because of their injury or challenge.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7816, mmclean@bendbulletin.com

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