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Rider up!

Foundation offers mountain bike program

The Outdoors for All Foundation is offering a new mountain biking program for disabled veterans. Photo credit: Outdoors for All Foundation

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The Outdoors for All Foundation will soon offer a military mountain biking program to disabled veterans.

"I envision this program to be a big place for vets to feel a rush of adrenaline," wrote Bryan Messick, the foundation's military program manager, in an email.

The foundation began in 1978 with 15 children with disabilities learning to downhill ski. A lot of work and a year later, the program incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

A customer-driven organization, the Outdoors for All Foundation works with more than 2,400 children and adults with disabilities to help them find their abilities through the training and support of more than 700 volunteers.

For the past 20-plus years, the foundation has also enriched the lives of disabled and injured veterans and their families through outdoor recreation. In partnership with Veterans Affairs, Disabled Sports USA, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Seattle-area partners, the foundation has created programs that range from alpine and Nordic skiing and rock-climbing to kayaking and road cycling. On average, about 140 veterans participate in the foundation's programs.

To take its mission to the next level, the Outdoors for All Foundation is putting together a new mountain biking program.

"The program began as a pilot program a few years ago with the Wounded Warrior Project," continued Messick.

But during the intervening years, money dried up and so did the program. The finances have returned, and as a result, the mountain biking program is rolling forward.

"This program is new, not in that we have never done mountain biking in the past," he continued. "We are officially starting a program that will sustain and be part of our offered yearly programs."

The program is for veterans with disabilities. While the foundation is ready to add the programs to its peloton of activities, it does not currently have all the necessary bikes -- recumbent and hand-driven, to be specific -- it needs to be fully inclusive.

The foundation's plan is to offer three lessons composed of: learning to ride a mountain bike; learning proper bike handling, body position and vision; and then taking advantage of a "freeride" option, an experience that brings riders into the culture of mountain biking and riding as a group over varied terrain.

As to costs, veterans who are registered with the Veterans Administration and have a disability rating are covered by a grant from the VA. The foundation will work with those veterans who are not covered and may not be able to bear any costs.

"This place should be about lifelong access for everyone, as our name suggests -- Outdoors for All," explained Messick.

The door is also open to those who want to volunteer.

"If someone doesn't identify as having a disability, they could volunteer to ride alongside or be trained as an instructor."

Registration for the program begins March 1. For those interested in becoming part of the program as a participant or instructor, send an email to or call 206.838.6030, extension 213.

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