BOEC helps local man get back on the bike
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY ” When he awoke from a five-day coma, Richard Abbott didn’t remember being hit by a car.
“People tell me that’s a good thing,” he said.
But he also didn’t remember how to swallow, how to walk, or how to do anything that once came naturally.
Decked out in his mountain biking gear today, Abbott barely resembles someone who has suffered major brain injuries, and he attributes his remarkable recovery ” and his return to his bike ” in great part to the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
Just two short months after moving to Summit County in 2006, Abbott’s dreams of exploring the mountains were suddenly put on hold when he was struck while biking down Highway 6 in Dillon on his way to work.
He was taken by a Flight-for-Life helicopter to St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver, where doctors discovered he had sustained major brain injuries and numerous facial fractures.
Friends and family members held their breath while they waited for Abbott to awake from the coma.
“People in the hospital kept telling my wife that I probably wouldn’t come out of it, but she refused to listen,” Abbott said.
Her faith paid off when Abbott regained consciousness and slowly began putting his life back together.
After several surgeries, he was transferred to Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation center outside of Denver which caters to patients with spinal cord and brain injuries.
“It felt like I had to re-learn everything,” Abbott said. “Luckily … Kristin, was by my side the whole time, and I never got depressed.”
He spent almost a year at Craig and then returned to the county.
Abbott wasn’t ready to abandon the activities that initially brought him to Colorado, so he contacted the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center to see what it would take to get back on a snowboard.
“At first it was pretty tough to balance, so I switched to snow skiing, which was a lot easier,” Abbott said. “People at the BOEC were so encouraging and provided me with everything I needed.”
Since 1976, the BOEC has been providing outdoor experiences for people with disabilities in the Rocky Mountains and beyond.
In addition to its highly praised adaptive ski-and-ride program, the BOEC provides year-round camps that focus on a variety of special needs.
“One of the biggest populations we work with is people with traumatic brain injuries, and in early June, we hold a brain-injury camp in conjunction with the Brain Injury Association of Colorado” said development director Marci Sloan.
After a positive experience with the BOEC in the winter, Abbott decided to take advantage of the seven-day brain-injury camp and arrived at the Scott Griffith Lodge in Breckenridge for a week of biking, rafting, fishing and rock-wall climbing.
“It was amazing, and there were so many things to do,” Abbott said. “It really opened my mind, and I think someday I would like to work or volunteer for them. I think it would be inspiring.”
One of the unique aspects of the BOEC’s specialized programs is that almost every participant is paired with a staff member or volunteer, putting extra emphasis on individual attention.
“We had 13 people in the brain-injury camp, and every person had a buddy to help them with everything,” staff member Katie Jack said. “The camp really opens people’s eyes to what they can do. I remember Richard climbed the most difficult route on the climbing wall, and I think he may have even surprised himself.”
Abbott credits the BOEC for motivating him in his recovery, and the added encouragement has kept him coming back to do more adaptive programs.
Although frequent bouts of dizziness still slow him down, he recently participated in the Third Annual Adaptive Cycle Fest at Keystone Resort, joining eight other riders on a scenic tour of Summit County’s bike paths.
“I moved out here to mountain bike and snowboard,” Abbott said. “So if I can recover enough to do those two things, then I’ll be happy.”
Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center is seeking donations of gently used, adult-sized mountain bikes. The bikes do not need to have suspension; hand brakes are preferred over coaster brakes. All donations are tax deductable. Please contact Jen Schappert at (970) 453-6422 or email@example.com for more information.
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