ELK LAKE —
It was a beautiful, sunny day at Elk Lake on Sunday, as volunteers and Oregon Adaptive Sports summer program assistant Lucy Swaffield helped Stanley Lee into a kayak.
“Are you ready, Stanley?” Swaffield asked.
“Ready,” replied Lee, of Redmond.
And then Lee and his paddling partner, volunteer Karin Morris, pushed off into the lake. Morris is the city of Bend's accessibility manager.
On the shore, Lonna Wallace watched the pair paddle across the lake. Wallace said she is Lee's legal custodian, because Lee is autistic and his parents are deceased. Sunday was Lee's first time kayaking, but “he's very strong and athletic, so he's game,” Wallace said.
Lee has participated in a wide variety of sports, from soccer to snowshoeing.
“His main thing is probably bicycle riding,” Wallace said.
Lee completed the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic along with a friend who owned a bicycle shop in Redmond, Wallace said.
Wallace said she just recently learned of the Oregon Adaptive Sports summer program by reading about it in a newspaper. Swaffield said the organization offered its first adaptive kayak and golf events last summer and expanded the program this year to include mountain biking, an accessible hike, canoeing and other events.
Kayaking on Sunday cost $20 per participant. The last event of the summer season is a free Wounded Warrior Mountain Bike Camp for military veterans next weekend. Oregon Adaptive Sports has been helping people with physical challenges to ski and snowboard since 1996.
Swaffield said the first full summer of adaptive sports events was a success.
“Not everybody is snow-sports oriented,” Swaffield said. “We've reached new participants and new volunteers.”
On Sunday, Swaffield and the volunteers used a variety of equipment to make kayaking more accessible. This included foam pool noodles, a rolled-up yoga mat and bicycle tire inner tubes, which volunteers slid onto paddles to make them easier to grip.
It was the second year that Geoff Babb, of Bend, participated in the kayaking event. Babb had a stroke in 2005 that left him with limited use of his arms and legs. He skis with Oregon Adaptive Sports during the winter.
As Babb waited for other kayakers to push off onto the lake Sunday, he said that although he and his wife, Yvonne, often go kayaking on their own, he likes to support Oregon Adaptive Sports.
Sunday was an opportunity for the Babbs to warm up for a kayaking trip in Puget Sound next weekend.
“We try to do as much stuff as we can that we used to do,” Babb said. “We just have to do it differently.”