Outdoor Mindset nonprofit connects people with neurological challenges | SummitDaily.com

Outdoor Mindset nonprofit connects people with neurological challenges

Jessica Smith
jsmith@summitdaily.com

Outdoor Mindset has always been about creating community. The nonprofit organization came together as a community of 11 friends in Boulder in 2010 and, four years later, continues to grow as it expands into other communities in Colorado and the United States. Its mission — connect people dealing with neurological diseases and challenges with each other through outdoor activities, from strolling in the park to mountain biking and skiing. Now, the group has opened a chapter in Summit County, hoping that anyone dealing with issues like seizures, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors or other neurological complications, and their caretakers, will be inspired to come together and explore the myriad outdoor opportunities the High Country has to offer.

FINDING WHAT'S IMPORTANT

The idea for Outdoor Mindset came out of a realization among the original founding members — that each of them had a connection to the challenge of a neurological issue or disease.

"Out of the 11 of us, there was one person who had a brain tumor, another person who had previously had a brain tumor and had it removed, and another person who had epilepsy, and another person whose family member had a brain aneurysm and passed away from that," said Kellyn Glynn, one of the founding board members. "In a small group of good friends, we realized there were a lot of people connected on this level."

“The biggest impact for me was the concept of, what is quality of life for me? And for me, it was being outdoors.”

Kyle Martin
One of the founding members of Outdoor Mindset

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Another connection the friends had was their love for being active in the outdoors, which they decided would be the perfect conduit for connecting others as well.

"We wanted to share how being outdoors in nature, being connected with each other … and having that sustainability of life could impact how that diagnosis affects us," said Kyle Martin, one of the founding board members.

The positive influence of nature and outdoor activity on a tough diagnosis is something that Martin knows a lot about. In 2009, he learned he had a brain tumor, which caused him to do some thinking and re-evaluate what was important in life. The usual questions, like "am I going to die?" or "why me?" didn't plague him that much, Martin said. He felt his perspective in that realm was balanced. The real question he found himself pondering was about how he wanted to spend his time.

"The biggest impact for me was the concept of, what is quality of life for me? And for me, it was being outdoors," he said. The outdoors, for Martin, includes activities like mountain biking, climbing 14ers, surfing, hiking and snowboarding. And when he does those things, "I'm alive and I don't think about it. It's almost natural healing. It's outdoor therapy, adventure therapy, whatever you want to label it," Martin said. "There's direct benefits of that, and I feel a lot of people feel it."

CONNECTING COMMUNITIES

The goal of Outdoor Mindset is to connect people — connect them to each other and connect them to activities they can enjoy outside, not just once in a while but continually, every month, every week or however often they like. The organizers want that active lifestyle to be ongoing, where people can "join something bigger than themselves," Martin explained. "Let's maintain as much quality of life as we can. Let's use the outdoors, let's use nature, let's use each other to sustain that way of life."

One goal of the group is to "take what you would consider a limitation — being diagnosed with something — and change that over to an opportunity, and really use the outdoors to do that."

Finding other people who are dealing with a similar situation isn't always easy, and Outdoor Mindset is a tool that people dealing with neurological challenges, and their caregivers, can use to find that specific type of community.

"People really enjoy being around other people they know understand what they're going through," Glynn said. "It doesn't matter what kind of specific diagnosis you have, you just understand that if you need to go a little bit slower on a hike or if you need to take a break there's no need to feel pressure or explain yourself. You're comforted by people who have been through something similar."

Membership into Outdoor Mindset is completely free. The organization receives most of its money through individual donations, occasionally supplemented with money from grants and fundraisers. Once they join, members create a profile on the Outdoor Mindset website, which helps them connect with others in the group. Through the website they can also learn about meet-ups in their area. Meet-ups are group activities that range from things like picnicking in the park, visiting a pumpkin patch and gardening to hiking, paddleboarding and rock climbing.

"The goal really is to create an empowered membership community where people that join can activate the meet-up groups by themselves too, so if they want to do something they can reach out to their fellow meet-up group members and post an event," Glynn said.

Volunteers are also welcome to lend a hand to the organization. Volunteer opportunities include outreach and networking, as well as connecting with the meet-up groups. Anyone interested in volunteering should visit the website, http://www.OutdoorMindset.org, Glynn said.

SUMMIT ACTIVITIES

Currently four of the original 11 founding members have relocated to Summit County, which they view as a perfect place to grow the Outdoor Mindset community.

"There's nothing not to like about Summit County, it's really great," Glynn said. "It's completely conducive to the organization that we have."

Martin agreed. "It's Colorado's playground, so there's many opportunities," he said. "And the Front Range (is close), it's easy for folks to get up as well."

Both of them said they're looking forward to seeing the Summit group grow.

"People that want to have an outdoor influence in their life and have a love for the outdoors and activities" will fit right in with the Outdoor Mindset community, Glynn said. "It doesn't have to be something extreme like mountain biking or rock climbing, it can just be that they like nature. Everybody's on different levels and we're open to serve everybody that wants to come out."

"We're all invested to make it successful," Martin added, "and we're just looking for people to join the crowd."

Outdoor Mindset

For more information on membership, volunteering and donations, visit http://www.OutdoorMindset.org