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Adaptive Adventures hosts fun-filled outdoor adventures for people with physical disabilities

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By Deborah Swearingen

A series of loud honks echo through Chatfield State Park as Shweta Broberg and Cody Homola celebrate making it to the top of the rock climbing wall.

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“Mom, your car’s in my way,” Shweta joked to her mom, Joelle Broberg, who stood below watching.

Shweta and Cody each have a prosthetic left leg, but that certainly didn’t prohibit them from scurrying up the climbing wall with ease. Last Thursday, they participated in an afternoon of fun with Adaptive Adventures, a Lakewood nonprofit that provides outdoor sports opportunities for people of all ages with physical disabilities, and Lim 359, a Denver nonprofit that offers social activities for those with limb loss and limb difference.

The pair of youngsters met at a Lim 359 summer camp earlier this year and quickly reconnected at the joint event at Chatfield last week.

As Cody’s mom, Wendy Edwardson, eyed her son and his friend climb the wall over and over, she was impressed to see Cody offer words of encouragement at any moment Shweta doubted her ability to make it to the top.

“I was sitting over here trying not to cry earlier,” Edwardson said. “(Adaptive Adventures) has been a great group to be involved with. The staff and volunteers are top notch.”

Cody agreed. Through Adaptive Adventures, he’s participated in all kinds of activities, but rock climbing continues to top his list of favorites.

“I like the concept of what they do,” he said.

Adaptive Adventures was founded in 1999 by two people with physical disabilities. At Chatfield last Thursday, the organization offered kayaking, paddleboarding, biking and rock climbing. But on any given day, the nonprofit provides adventures of all sorts, including alpine skiing, dragon boat racing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving and more. In addition to coordinating programs locally, Adaptive Adventures takes their gear on the road to places without the resources and provides training so outfitters can offer adaptive programs to the public.

For executive director Chelsea Elder, it’s all about the “aha moments” when people realize they can participate in an activity that once seemed daunting.

“Our tagline is freedom through mobility, and that’s really so true,” she said. “ … You can’t tell out here who has a disability when you’re in a kayak.”

It’s a special passion for Elder since her father is a disabled Vietnam War veteran. She appreciates that the group welcomes people of all kinds – children, adults and veterans.

Gary Verrazono understands this, too. He is a Marine Corps veteran who joined the military after Sept. 11 and later became a double amputee from a work accident. Now, he volunteers with both Adaptive Adventures and Lim 359. During last week’s event, he served as the grill extraordinaire, cooking burgers and such for attendees to enjoy.

“It’s just amazing the things they do for people like us,” he said.

Verrazano can remember seeing dragon boat racing and questioning whether he would be able to do it. But he could do it, and now he offers advice to others with disabilities who may doubt heir capabilities.

“Don’t think that you can’t do anything,” he said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.