BEND, Ore. - Each summer, thousands of people come to Bend to take part in or watch the Pole Pedal Paddle. This year, a team made entirely of physically challenged athletes took to the course, to show they're not letting a disability slow them down.
"Everyone was cheering for us, and the way that we finished was just as cool." said Danielle Watson, a member of the team.
For the 29-year-old to finish the race was a memory she will never forget. It has opened her eyes to new possibilities after she broke her back in a climbing accident over a year ago in Colorado.
Now, Watson is riding a hand cycle and trying out new sports she never thought she would do, all thanks to Oregon Adaptive Sports.
"I was an extreme athlete before," said Watson. "They've shown me that I don't have to lose that part of my life. It's still a very big part of my life."
The Pole Peddle Paddle foreshadowed a new program being started by OAS. This summer, they are adding a new list of outdoor sports to get adaptive athletes out and active.
"This is recreation mecca," said Carl Backstrom, an adaptive athlete. "There are a lot of the summer sports that are in the Paralypics that can train all year around here."
Backstrom, who broke his back in 1987, says programs like the one OAS has begun to build gives the spark back to those down on life after a life-changing incident.
"You get a little adrenaline, and that fire comes back," said Backstrom. "I mean, as soon as I got my hand cycle, about seven months after I broke, my back that was it. Eventually, I rode over 103 miles in one day."
Oregon Adaptive Sports is taking their program to the next level. Not only have they added a summer program, but some day hope to send athletes to the world stage.
"Athletes who participate in our program are eligible to go up the pipeline to the Paralympics." said Christine Brousseau, executive director of OAS.
"I'm excited for the Paralympics," which follow the Olympics in London this summer, said Watson. "It was like off my radar before my accident, but it gives me a lot of hope to see what people are doing."
As this new program begins to blossom, adaptive athletes across Central Oregon have a new way to embrace life and fulfill their dreams.
Click here for more information about Oregon Adaptive Sports.