In, its quest to continue providing adaptive recreation programs in the Blackstone River Valley, the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BRVNHC) has acquired a state-of-the-art, electric-assist wheelchair bicycle. A grant received from the Network of the National Library of Medicine, New England Region (NNLM,) provided the funds to purchase a Van Raam OPair bicycle from Bike-On of Warwick, RI. BRVNHC is partnering with All Out Adventures of Northampton, MA, who will be caretakers of the bike, to offer adaptive cycling to people with mobility impairments and their caregivers in the Blackstone River Valley.
On November 23, all four organizations met at the Blackstone River Valley Heritage Center in Worcester, MA, so that Bike-On could deliver the equipment. A special test ride was arranged with Susan Halpin, Education and Outreach Coordinator at NNLM, and her mother, Ellie Guild.
“Being involved with the “Opening Doors to the Outdoors” grant awarded to the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor has been rewarding both personally and professionally for me,” Halpin shared. “I have always thought that social connection was important to overall good health. With COVID-19, the importance of being connected has become very apparent to me because I am missing that connection to my family, friends and community. Those around us with physical and intellectual challenges experience the isolation many of us are feeling currently, all the time.”
According to Halpin, programs such as Opening Doors to the Outdoors and organizations like the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, All Out Adventures, and Bike-On, are addressing the need for inclusivity and for connection through opportunities that adaptive bicycles like the OPair provide. “In my experience, it’s not only the participants who receive those health benefits,” Halpin added. “Those who volunteer to make these events happen come away grateful for the opportunity to be involved. Giving my Mom a test ride on this new bike certainly showed that to me! Gratitude is essential to good health.”
Since 2017, BRVNHC has partnered with All Out Adventures to offer adaptive exercise programs in the Blackstone River Valley including adaptive cycling and adaptive kayaking. In 2019, adaptive kayaking events were made possible through a grant received from NNLM. Earlier this year, BRVNHC received an additional grant from NNLM to offer a series of adaptive cycling programs in partnership with All Out Adventures, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, those events could not be held. Instead, funds were used to acquire an adaptive bicycle that would provide additional programing opportunity in the spring of 2021.
“This bike will open doors and break down barriers, and we are thrilled to be able to use it in our programs,” noted Karen Foster, executive director of All Out Adventures. “At All Out Adventures we see time and again how providing access to outdoor recreation for people of all abilities has the power to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. The OPair Wheelchair Tandem will help us to extend the opportunity to participate in cycling to people with mobility impairments and their caregivers.”