Missoula is well-known for the adrenaline junkies, mountaineers and outdoor recreationalists who call our valley home. In fact, many of us have moved here for the recreation opportunities right outside our front doors. In every direction from our valley lie world-renowned whitewater rapids, majestic mountains and vertical walls of granite. Whether we hike, ski, paddle, fish or ride horses, we value the refreshing air of the mountains and the ability to recreate away from the concrete jungle.
But for many Garden City-ites, the rivers and mountains lie just out of reach. People who’ve experienced a traumatic brain injury or were born with cerebral palsy have historically lacked the support structure and specialized equipment necessary to ski in the winter or raft in the summer. But Eagle Mount Missoula, a fledging organization initiated just last month, is changing all that.
An outgrowth of an 18-year-old Bozeman program, the Missoula chapter of Eagle Mount aims to provide adventure-based therapeutic recreation options for people with disabilities through low-cost, volunteer-supported programs. The Bozeman Eagle Mount has proved amazingly successful, supporting more than 700 community members last year and utilizing more than 900 volunteers, a number the Missoula program sees as an attainable goal.
“Missoula’s a big recreation town,” says program director Elke Govertsen. “There need to be more opportunities for people with disabilities.” And Eagle Mount does just that, filling a niche in the outdoor recreation market for participants of all ages. “Our participants have so far ranged in age from 9 to 53,” says Govertsen. “We can accommodate nearly anybody.”
Although the Missoula chapter has been in existence for only a few months, the overwhelming interest in and success of the ski curricula has been encouraging to Govertsen. “Skiing is just wrapping up, and we’re eager to begin the next program,” she says, which will likely include horseback riding, whitewater rafting and a host of other activities.
“I have the best job in Missoula,” she adds. “I get to do life-changing moments.” People interested in learning more or volunteering can call 549-3797.