On the Hill: Martha Reynolds
December 15, 2005
When a judge sentenced Martha Reynolds to community service at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) four years ago, she never could have guessed how much the order would change her life.”I was scheduled to do 40 hours and by the end of the year I had done 230 extra. I just basically fell in love with the program. I’ve been here ever since,” Reynolds said.The nonprofit organization strives to expand the potential of those with disabilities and special needs through outdoor experiences.Reynolds has instructed people with all sorts of disabilities during her time at the BOEC. One of her favorite assignments is a regular appointment with two women in their early 20s from Clear Creek County who have Down Syndrome.”It’s heartwarming to work with them because they’re so kind and they love skiing,” she said.
Reynolds’ time volunteering at the BOEC has stretched far beyond merely occupying her free hours – it taught her that it was time for a new career and prompted her to enroll in classes to become a certified nurse’s aide.”I hadn’t been to school in 30 years so it was kind of intense, but I knew I liked helping people,” she said.Now Reynolds is a caregiver for a local man who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease about a year-and-a-half ago.Thursday afternoon Reynolds was waiting for her client’s arrival at the BOEC so she could help him get back on the snow for the first time since his diagnosis. Since he had lost most of the feeling in his limbs, he used a bi-ski, which allowed him to sit down while making turns down the slope.On top of being rewarding, Reynolds said her time with the BOEC has been humbling.”People tend to go on a pity pot: ‘Oh, my life is such a struggle.’ Work in this for one day, and you’ll forget any struggle you have.”
Why does volunteering have such an effect on you?”I just was really amazed at the possibilities, the things people could actually do that I had no clue about before being involved in this,” Reynolds said, giving an example of people with one leg being able to ski.Her co-workers have made an impression as well, she added.”Just the people in paid staff, the volunteers, the interns are all really, really special people. I just kind of found a niche here and felt like I fit in.”
What kind of challenges do you face teaching adaptive skiing?”The disabilities alone are such a wide range. I’ve learned a lot about different disabilities just by being in this program, by volunteering, shadowing people and (learning from) the paid staff knowledge.” When she began volunteering, Reynolds didn’t think she’d ever be able to take a client out without another instructor; now she feels she has developed those skills.Another challenge each day is making sure that students – some of whom may have never thought they would be able to ski – are having a good time. “The clients are much more appreciative at the end of the day. You feel really, really good that you helped somebody, that you put a smile on their face.”