In general, it’s considered a good sign when an organization outgrows its space, and that’s certainly the case for the Durango Adaptive Sports Association and its building at Purgatory Resort.
“We actually outgrew it 20 years ago,” said Tim Kroes, executive director of ASA, which serves people with cognitive and physical disabilities. “We’ve been having conversations with Purgatory for years about building our own building, and they were willing to donate a piece of land, but the infrastructure’s not installed yet in that area.”
The staff members and board of directors finally realized the timing for a new building is so far out, work needed to be done to the current building to carry them to the time when they can build their own facility.
“It will happen at some point,” Kroes said. “This is a temporary solution that may carry us for five years, eight years, maybe 10 years. It’s a more immediate solution that was very cost-effective.”
ASA did some fundraising, but the addition is being built in large part with the help of Jerry Pope and Emil Wanatka, owners of Timberline Builders. Wanatka sits on the ASA board. They have recruited in-kind and material donations that are bringing the costs to less than 50 cents on the dollar.
Without all the donations and in-kind work, Kroes estimates the total cost of the addition would have been about $130,000 to $140,000. However, because of all the assistance ASA has received, the final price tag for the group will be about $65,000 to $70,000, he said.
“People would come in and say, ‘This is what we can donate,’” said Ann Marie Meighan, program director of Adaptive Sports. “Then they’d come back to us and say, ‘We actually want to do more. What can we do?’”
The nonprofit is adding about 952 square feet, nearly doubling the usable space to the old 1,000-square-foot building, which was a Forest Service cabin built in 1942.
Meighan is most excited about the new utility room, which will house a washer and dryer and accessible shower, but having enough cabinet space in the kitchen will also be a welcome change.
The building’s also going to be safer, she said, because the Durango Fire Protection District helped install fire sprinklers throughout the building, including in the older sections.
A growing program
Adaptive Sports has seen steady growth during its 31-year history, providing 1,400 days of recreational activities to people with physical and cognitive disabilities in 2014. The nonprofit provides both winter and summer recreation, including skiing, snowboarding, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, rafting and rock climbing.
“We’re on pace to have a record-breaking year in 2015,” Kroes said. “The board and staff have made a conscious decision that we’re not trying to be the largest adaptive organization in the country given our location and resources, because we want to keep our personal touch.”
In recent years, ASA has begun working with veterans, including a recently concluded rafting trip on the San Juan River for an all-female group of veterans.
In the winter, about 70 percent of participants are from the Four Corners. In the summer, it’s more like 80 percent, Meighan said.
“A lot of families with disabled people choose Durango for their vacations so they can all do things together,” Meighan said. “We took a family of 15 on a raft trip a couple of weeks ago.”
ASA recently worked with a woman from Palm Springs, California, who had suffered a severe stroke.
“She had been very active, but was afraid her active days were over,” Meighan said. “We spent a couple of days rock climbing in Telluride, while her partner enjoyed Trimble Hot Springs. The level of excitement she had is contagious, and to have that opportunity is really life-changing.”
Kroes said there have been numerous touching stories in his 24 years of involvement (including time as a volunteer).
“The stories never end; that’s why I’m still here,” Kroes said. “It’s a rare week when I don’t end up personally touched.”
Many participants send thank-you letters, he said.
“When I’m going to speak to Rotary or Kiwanis or some group like that, I always grab a couple of letters from the last month or two,” he said. “I let them tell the story of what their time with us meant.”
People think Adaptive Sports is about teaching people a skill, Kroes said, such as how to ski or how to kayak.
“That’s just a tool,” he said. “It’s not what keeps me excited. It’s the people who say, ‘Because of you guys, I went back to school,’ or ‘Since I was with you, I took my first job since my disability.’”
Adaptive Sports is about expanding limits, he said.
“It allows them to achieve all those things they didn’t think were even possible,” Kroes said.