Nathan Sperling, 12, is an active participant in Power To Be’s Adaptive Recreation Program. (File contributed/ Power to Be) [Alt text: A young boy with a big smile is wearing a black winter jacket with a furry hood. He leans against an outdoor chair with trees and the ocean in the background.]

Access: Greater Victoria non-profit brings the outdoors to people of all abilities

Power To Be’s Adaptive Recreation Program allows people of all ages and abilities to get outside

This is the second instalment of “Access,” a Black Press Media three-part series focusing on accessibility in Greater Victoria. See Part One- Access: A Day in the Life Using a Wheelchair in Victoria

The first time Nathan Sperling went out on a kayak trip with Power To Be three years ago he was beaming.

Sperling was nine years old at the time, and an ambitious, energetic learner. However, with both Asperger’s Syndrome and autism, Sperling sometimes had trouble fitting in with other groups.

“He’s very high functioning, so he can often do well with neuro-typical kids, but super on the spectrum programs aren’t really suitable for him,” explained his mother, D’Arcy Mahoney. “Other team sports were too structured for him, like in soccer where it’s ‘let’s play a game, let’s learn social skills.’”

READ MORE: Access Greater Victoria

Finding a balance in activities which would support Sperling’s unique needs wasn’t easy until Mahoney came across Power To Be, a nonprofit organization that tries to bring people with different mental and physical abilities the chance to explore nature in an inclusive environment. The organization’s Adaptive Recreation Program brings activities such as kayaking, surfing, hiking, camping, climbing, snowshoeing and more to a very wide group of people with all abilities.

“A lot of our participants live a life of ‘no,’ ‘shouldn’t,’ ‘can’t,’ and ‘stop,’” said Carinna Kenigsberg, manager of partnerships. “At Power to Be it’s really about bringing out the ‘yes’ mentality, and how we can pull out those skills and recreate them later when they’re trying to get a job, develop a relationship or have a peer-to-peer encounter.”

Groups of people with varying physical and mental needs go out together to have fun in a way that focuses on inclusivity, something Mahoney felt immediately.

Now 12, Sperling attends Power to Be activities roughly once a month and has made friends with other participants and volunteers.

Since he started the Adaptive Recreation Program, Mahoney said she’s seen an immeasurable amount of personal growth in her son.

ALSO READ: Only half of Victoria’s accessible parking meets basic standards report

“His confidence level is way higher,” she said. “He wants to be a stand-up comedian, so he’s got a relationship with staff and peers and has running jokes with them.”

Mahoney said she’s seen this confidence carry forward into other aspects of Sperling’s life, including in school and in other activities, such as Aikido.

“What really stands out is his ability to advocate for himself,” she said.

Since Power To Be began 20 years ago, more than 10,000 people have participated in the program. There is no age limit, so kids and adults can participate, and fees for the activities are heavily subsidized to sit at $10 each.

“There’s tons of studies around physical and mental health benefits about being physical in nature,” Kenigsberg said. “In nature, you can see symbiotic relationships, that can help with social situations. Nature adapts, and there’s parallels in that where people also need to constantly modify and adapt.”

For Mahoney the opportunities brought forward by Power To Be has also allowed her a wider social network.

“For my family, it’s been lifesaving. What autism can do is isolate us from a larger community because our kid doesn’t socialize,” she said. “But to have a community where our whole family is involved with other parents in similar situations … there’s real solidarity and that’s quite wonderful.”

ALSO READ: Victoria’s $750,000 accessibility reserve fund makes improvement not the side project

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Just Posted

B.C. mom, kids on bike turned away from Tim Hortons drive-thru

Car-free for years, Charity Millar ‘felt gross’ being denied service

The Salvation Army rings in Christmas Kettle Campaign in Victoria

Goal is to raise $250,000 this year for Vancouver Island residents needing support

Body found in Central Saanich waste recycling facility deemed non-suspicious

Coroners Service investigating circumstances of death

Saanich mom on a bike turned away in Tim Hortons drive-thru

Car-free for years, Charity Millar ‘felt gross’ being denied service

West Shore RCMP spend four hours searching for roving hikers

RCMP say stay put once you’ve called for help and listen to instructions

POLL: Do you plan on making any purchases on Black Friday?

We’ve all seen the images. Shoppers rioting outside of a store in… Continue reading

B.C. man gets life with no parole until 2042 for murder of Belgian tourist near Boston Bar

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

‘Very disrespectful’: B.C. first responder irked by motorists recording collisions on cellphones

Central Cariboo Search and Rescue deputy chief challenges motorists to break the habit

Daily cannabis linked to reduction in opioid use: B.C. researchres

Researchers looked at a group of 1,152 people in Vancouver who reported substance use and chronic pain

Port Alberni rallies for mill workers

Fundraisers helping ease the sting of five months without work

Island student lobbies school board for dress code consistency

Jaylene Kuo contacted school trustees after seeing dress guidelines at brother’s school

Bids down, costs up on Highway 1, B.C. independent contractors say

Rally protests NDP government’s union-only public construction

Members of little people community applaud change to drop ‘midget’ term

‘It’s not about sensitivity,’ says Allan Redford, the president of the Little People of Canada

Most Read