Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Disabled Explorers allow people with disabilities to access backcountry

From CBS:

Eighteen-year-old Maegan Clark of Phoenix called for a ride recently -- a ride to take her, not to school or work, but to a place in her life she thought she'd never see again.

Maegan was quite the adventurer before a diving accident left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Rock climbing, remote hiking - anything that got her off the beaten path was her passion - and still is - which is why a one of a kind ride-share van is now her new best friend. Unlike typical vans, this one doesn't stop at the curb. This one doesn't even stop at the mountain. And best of all, she gets to drive it.

"It's not a tourist bus. This is not sit-in-the-back and hold on. This is sit behind the steering wheel and hold on," said Lance Blair. An amputee himself, Blair owns the van and came up with an idea: to basically take disabled people 4-wheeling.

"It's just awesome to know you can come out here and do stuff like this," Maegan said.

Thanks to Lance's tank-chair invention, there really is no limit to where he can take people.

"That's the coolest thing I've ever been in," Maegan said. "I'd want one of these even if I wasn't paralyzed."

So what does an adventure like this cost? Well, that's actually the sweetest part of this story. In the last couple years, Lance has taken out more than two dozen people at his own expense - the van alone cost him $75,000.

"I'm an intensive care nurse," Lance said. "I do work a lot of overtime to pay for this."

"I think good things happen to good people and I think it's going to pay off for him someday," Maegan said.

Someday? Lance says it pays off everyday he gets to come out here with people like Maegan.

Maegan said, "He gave me back more of my life, a part I was missing."

Lance calls his non-profit "Disabled Explorers" and plans to open chapters in Southern California and western Colorado.