BOEC in the News

Archive for News and Announcements

Yoga and Disability

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The benefits of yoga and massage therapy are far-reaching.  Yoga helps us connect our mind to what is happening in our body, through focusing on and moving with the breath.  Massage therapy also promotes awareness of our body; it provides us with an opportunity to relax and release tension we may be holding.  I have been fortunate to have volunteered with the BOEC, teaching adaptive yoga and giving massage therapy to clients who are living with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  There are several factors to consider as a yoga instructor and massage therapist when working with individuals from these groups.  Their motor functions and range of motion will be limited; there may be reduced sensation, and spasticity or rigidness in the body; there may be learning and cognitive difficulties, or emotional volatility.  In my experience so far, the clients who are staying at the Griffin Lodge carry a positive outlook and have been optimistic about their yoga or massage sessions. 

The adaptive yoga I teach has been done in a group setting, with clients and counselors joining in together.  The counselors have been invaluable as they are able to assist clients in performing a stretch.  The group environment encourages social interaction among the clients and a feeling of camaraderie.  Many of them are testing their limits in the yoga class and it is helpful to have the sense of togetherness.  Some clients, who are experiencing rigidity and spasticity, utilize the counselors to fully move them into a posture when they cannot do it on their own.  Others, who have limited range of motion and mobility, also benefit from the counselors’ gentle support in moving deeper into a pose. 

The yoga is adaptive in that the class is done while sitting in a chair or wheelchair, as is often the case.  We start with the pranayama portion, which means “breath work,” and emphasize deep breathing techniques.  Starting in a relaxing, mindful way sets the pace for a peaceful class rather than a vigorous one that may cause pain and strain.  It is important to have bodily awareness so that we perform within our limits, while still receiving the rejuvenating benefits of yoga.  We then move into a series of asanas, or “poses,” which is the stretching portion of class.  We stretch the neck, the shoulders, the arms, forearms, wrists and hands in different ways.  For many, this is doable albeit with some limited range of motion:  straps are used to help clients get deeper into a pose.  Next we stretch the muscles of the back, moving into forward bends, chest opening exercises, and spinal twists to promote movement and lubrication of the vertebrae.  We stretch the legs as much as possible, doing leg lifts, hamstring stretches, and ankle rotations.  If it is not possible for the clients to move their lower body on their own, we simply massage the leg, knee, and calf area.  This self-massage improves blood circulation and is important in preventing complications such as decubitous ulcers.  We end the class with a final relaxation, which allows the clients to rest after their exercise and gives their bodies a chance to integrate the stretching.  Clients often feel calmer after a yoga class. 

At the Griffith Lodge, I have given massage therapy to clients who are living with a TBI, MS, or ALS and to their partners, who are also affected by the circumstances.  Giving massage therapy has been a joyful experience.  These practices are restorative for the body and healing for the psyche and allow us ways to find pleasure in our selves, improving quality of life.

Massage therapy is performed for patients and their spouses, which is a healthy way for all to relieve the stress associated with living with a chronic illness.  Massage therapy can be performed in a wheel chair if necessary, or clients can be helped onto a table using a body board.  For clients with ALS, the heat produced by the mechanical nature of massage is therapeutic for controlling muscle spasms.  For clients who have had a TBI, massage helps to maintain healthy muscle and connective tissue, as it brings blood supply and oxygen to the tissue and carries away metabolic waste, and it can be an integral part of rehabilitation.  Only light effleurage or nerve stroking, which are gentle, low-pressure techniques, are done to areas where there is limited sensation.  For clients with MS, massage is wonderful as a stress-management technique that can promote wellness and prolong remissions, as stress has been shown to exacerbate symptoms among some patients.  Massage is indicated during subacute stages to maintain the health and mobility of tissues.  Light massage, energy work, and nerve stroking are more appropriate during acute stages. 

Erica Ragusa
Certified massage therapist, yoga instructor, and Ayurvedic specialist
Website: Breckenridge Massage Therapy

Berthoud Weekly Surveyor helps get the word out about life with MS and Programs at the BOEC.

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor helps to get the word out about BOEC’S programs being offered for adults living with MS.  This article offers the unique perspective of both what it is like living with MS as well being a BOEC participant.

Berthoud Weekly Surveyor

More Information about the upcomming Winter Program                                                  

Great Times at Hope Mountain Camp

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Hope Mountain Camp, an American Cancer Society camp for siblings of children with cancer, happened June 24-27 and this is my traditional recap……except this is going to be the BEST one yet!!

This year we did the same activities, but in NEW places. We camped on Friday and Saturday nights, both in amazing places. We rock climbed at Camp Hale (very beautiful and very interesting place) and we rafted the Colorado River. As per tradition, we tackled the ropes course on the last day.

Why such little commentary you may ask…. well this year I have the BEST thing ever for you all…. you get to actually SEE and FEEL camp. One of our amazing campers filmed the entire weekend and made a video!! I really really REALLY hope all of you will take the 10 minutes and watch the video ALL the way through, its so amazing and really gives you a good peak at how special Hope Mountain Camp is.. and what it means to our kids who come.

Here is the video:

I also want to share with all of you a poem that this same camper wrote. She was inspired by our sharing circle and how the kids really rallied around each other. This year, I saw more positivity and encouragement than I had ever seen before during our circle…. and as always their strength and insight inspires and touches me.

Here is the poem:

Green, Yellow, Red, Green

A poem by Kaylee Pratt, Inspired by Hope Mountain Camp

Yellow light, red light, green light,
We’re born in this world
With nothing to know.
You play in the sun,
You play in the snow,
But then you get sick,
And go through chemo.

Life is a road,
And you are the car.
You can’t control death
To be near or be far.
Of all the places,
You go and you see,
You look through a window,
With no liberty.

An octagon sign
That tells you to stop.
The road is too short,
But in case there’s a cop,
You lay on the breaks,
And gather your thoughts,
And watch all the healthy
Pedestrians cross.

Sometimes you may help
Hitchhikers so sad,
A sibling, a friend,
A mom, or a dad.
They heal your scars,
You brush off their sand,
But sometimes you cry harder
When they hold your hand.

And sometimes a blessing
May cross your path.
A beautiful butterfly
Whose name was once Zach,
A bumper sticker
That may make you laugh,
A pretty new wig
Or a new floppy hat.

No U-turns,
No turning around,
One way street
Where maturity is found.
It’s been quite a while
Since your feet touched the ground.
Your road is as long
As your golden heart pounds.

You pass all the lights,
But follow the signs.
You play it safe,
Don’t cross yellow lines.
I have been here
With your hand in mine.
And really, the road
Is bumpy but fine.

Yellow light, red light, green light,
You’ve made it through
Much more than you know.
I’ve seen you hide,
And I’ve watched you grow.
You’ve reached the highway:
A long, smooth road.

I also want to take the time to thank the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center… the staff there really worked with me on putting together the best Hope Mountain Camp we could under our circumstances and our course director remains to be the BEST we’ve ever had (I shudder to think what I might have to do to work with someone different). She keeps us organized, on schedule and IN FUN. Once again, the BOEC continues to hire GREAT interns and ours this session fall into that category.  And one last huge thank you to Erik Ortiz, as you will see or saw in the video.. he is a GREAT help to me at camp and the kids ADORE him. Thanks for being there Big E!

Amanda Childs, American Cancer Society

The Life of a Summer Intern

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

by Elizabeth McKee, 2010 BOEC Intern

Watching the sun set on the mountains around the Upper Arkansas River Valley on the way home from a road trip to the Sand Dunes National Park, I almost forget just how crammed I am in the backseat of a Corolla with three other people. (I say “almost” because getting my camera out of my bag to capture the moment requires all of us to move at least four body parts.) Sitting in silence, it’s one of those rare instances I have experienced in my life when I have felt like there is absolutely nowhere I would rather be and nothing else I would rather be doing. I am in the moment, taking it all in, thinking to myself how much I am enjoying my life. The typical stresses and worries that creep to the forefront of my mind in daily life to negate this feeling for even a self-proclaimed optimist are nowhere in sight.

It dawns on me how seemingly random but then again not so random it is that this is where I am in my life. Less than three months ago, I never would have imagined I could have a “job” that doesn’t feel like a “job.” I never imagined I would be “working” for 37 cents an hour and loving every second of it. Six weeks ago, I never would have imagined that I would be able to call the other five people in the car, essentially strangers, my friends. Before coming to the BOEC, I was not able to even imagine the gravity of what I was getting myself into.

It all started last summer when I was working as an occupational therapist at a hospital in my hometown in Wichita, KS. Whether it was that I found myself living at home again as a 26-year-old when I had sworn that would never even be an option or that I was feeling physically and emotionally burnt out from working a job that requires constantly “being on,” I knew I was ready for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and my job, but I knew I was not as happy as I could be given my current life situation. Having had some luck just jumping into new life experiences (ie just “trying” OT as a major or moving to Montana sight unseen on a whim), I applied to the BOEC. After all, I have heard someone say life was 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. What was the worst that could happen? I would have to hang out in Colorado for five months and come home broke afterwards?  

Thinking back over my past six weeks as in intern here at the BOEC, I am realizing that’s just the way it had to be. I had to come here. I have an overwhelming premonition that this will be the pivotal time in my life, the point of reference I will make in X number of years as I trace what has lead me to where I am. I feel confident it is the first step on my path to finding my treasure, the intrinsic happiness that accompanies doing something you truly love. I do not know how or when or what that may be yet, but I am undoubtedly convinced the universe has conspired to put me where I need to be to figure that out. Specifically, I have managed to surround myself with people who will help me on my journey, whether they ever realize it or not.

Really thinking about the people I have met and the experiences I have had on courses has been a daunting task; it has turned out to be much more difficult and cathartic that I ever imagined. My experience with both staff and participants at the BOEC has left me with palpable emotions I have been almost unwilling to acknowledge until now,  having suspected their true strength and wanting to be prepared to be able to understand and incorporate them into my life. I knew the magnitude of my experiences here thus far comes with great responsibility, as being lucky enough to have had them requires a “pay it forward” toll in such a keenly karmic universe. I have been forced to look inward, to challenge my perspective and life as I knew it as an admittedly selfish 26-year-old…the life I knew before coming to the BOEC.

I must ask myself daily if I would have the courage I have seen in so many participants. It is more than courage to do the Ropes Course or go rafting, although in many ways these parallel the bravery the individuals who come here must have simply to get through each day in their own personal life. It was the courage I saw in a participant with ALS to let go of the anger he felt over being “surprised” with a terminal illness, to seek advice on how to stay upbeat and positive. It was the courage of spouses of these participants with ALS to provide care and emotional support 24 hours a day when they are really the ones who will have the longest and hardest road ahead on their own. It is the courage the participants exhibit daily to not let their “disability” interfere with life, regardless of physical and emotional obstacles…to carry on even if you need someone to help you get dressed or go to the bathroom…those little things we all take for granted.

I have had to ask myself how much do I appreciate all that I value in my life? How would I react if it was all suddenly taken away from me and I was forced to change my values and priorities? The first time I met Dave during the ALS course, his smile lit up the entire room. Having lost all ability to swallow, he told us the towel in his mouth was “just for looks, girls” as he winked. Typing out messages on his iPhone as his only means of communication, he said he stays upbeat by “just appreciating what I do have that works,” even if it is only his right hand. His motto in life is “No matter how bad things get, seems you always have a choice of ham, bacon or sausage.” Would I be able to say that?  How much do I worry about such comparatively trivial matters on a daily basis?

The ability to “adapt and overcome” as taught by the BOEC is most exemplified in our participants, although the motto in theory may have been designed to guide a fledgling intern trying to figure out how to “make it work” if you screw something up. Meeting a 38-year-old man whose brain injury cost him his marriage, family and use of his right side who says he is “extremely grateful” for his accident because of the knowledge and faith it has brought to him is epitome of the real life application of this concept.

To have participants with such challenges in their own life thanking me of all people for the experience they had while here at the BOEC has been the most overwhelming aspect during courses. If they only knew how thankful I was to be able to spend time with them! Each participant I have met has been such an inspiration, not only by their willingness to trust in us and try something new, but to see glimpses of what daily life back at home is like and their ability to maintain optimism. They have no idea that their acceptance, happiness, gratitude, and strength to overcome adversity offer invaluable insight into what it really means to be live a life worth living that truly incorporates all these qualities.

What they also do not know is that my motives during each course have been entirely selfish, as I can’t stop thinking about what I can take home from each experience. Each person I have met has offered me some tool to use to become the person I want to be when I “grow up.” I am reminded of a line from my favorite book, Paulo Cuehlo’s “The Alchemist”: “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You’ve got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense.”

I can say undoubtedly that the people I have met and the experiences I have had in this short time as a BOEC intern are bringing me a step closer to finding my treasure in life. And one day I will be able to make sense of it all, but for now I am content just to know I am a passenger in the backseat on the way to my next big adventure. I am headed in the right direction, and I surprisingly feel fortunate to be so crammed next to “strangers” who I know are essential to my journey. I can look out at the sun on the mountains and be in the moment, as I think to myself how much I enjoy and appreciate my life as a BOEC intern.

Hundreds Gather for 9th Annual Breckebeiner

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Bryce Evans–Summit Daily News
BRECKENRIDGE — Gene Dayton described the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center as the “little school that serves the world.”

With more than 2,000 participants — from 17 foreign countries and 40 states — utilizing the many BOEC programs just this year, that certainly can’t be disputed. Neither can the impact that Dayton and the rest of the local Nordic ski community has on helping the BOEC’s cause. More than 200 people gathered at the Breckenridge Nordic Center on Saturday for the ninth annual Breckebeiner 60k Ski-A-Thon and Snowshoe Bash, a fundraiser for the BOEC’s Tuition Assistance Fund.

“It’s a wonderful time for people to get together and enjoy the sport and come together around a cause that truly celebrates life,” said Dayton, founder of the event, operator of the Nordic center and one of the co-founders of the BOEC.

The mission of the foundation is to offer “life-changing outdoor activities for a diverse population of people” with mental and physical disabilities, serious illnesses, injured veterans, youth at risk and other special needs. And Saturday, people spun laps around the Nordic center’s trail system to help raise funds. participants took up sponsorship or pledged money on a per-kilometer basis. The final total is expected to be more than $20,000.

“Year number nine, and we’re hoping that we’ll double what’s been done in any previous years,” Dayton said.

They’re off to a good start. Dayton said this year’s event has an “open track” format, meaning people can do their skiing anytime during the week, up until April 1. Although, many opted to take part in Saturday’s festivities. With polka-style music — led by local accordion icon Helmut Fricker — as the backdrop, participants lapped around the center’s clubhouse, where dozens were gathered. Grills sizzled and the bonfires were blaring, and at the completion of each lap, participants were greeted to loud applause and some cow bells. People were dressed in costumes, some even unrecognizable, but the care for the cause was apparent.

“Many of our clients, because they’re disabled, don’t have very much money, so they wouldn’t be able to go on these experiences without the opportunities we provide,” BOEC executive director Bruce Fitch said.

The vast majority of people won’t make the 60k. Dayton said he expects 20 or so to do it. Many, though, are helping to raise substantial funds. Dayton said Mike Atkinson, pastor of Agape Outpost, has put up “thousands of dollars” this week for the BOEC.

“He pumped it up from the pulpit,” Dayton said with a laugh.

The event started nine years ago as Dayton’s 60th birthday party, when he asked friends and people in the community to ski with him to raise money for the BOEC. Dayton said it still gives him pride to see what the people of Breckenridge are willing to do for a noble cause.

“It’s a little town with a big heart, and it’s a town that serves the world,” Dayton said.

Sam Adams helps the BOEC!

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

For the months of February and March, Rutkey Distributing and Samuel Adams will donate a portion of sales proceeds to the BOEC from any Sam Adams purchased  at the following locations:

Liquor Stores

  • City Liquors- Breckenridge
  • Locals Liquors- Silverthorne
  • Skee Vue Liquors- Breckenridge
  • Breckenridge Summit Liquors- Breckenridge
  • Frisco Liquors- Frisco
  • Antlers Liquors- Frisco
  • Leadville Liquors- Leadville
  • Dillon Ridge Liquors- Dillon


  • The Dredge
  • Copper Top Bar and Grill
  • The Quandary
  • Kenosha Steak House
  • Tuscato Italian Grill- Frisco

Many thanks to Rutkey Distributing, Samuel Adams and all these participating businesses!

Make a Wish Foundation at the BOEC

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Check out this story of a young girl, Sarah Holm from Wisconsin, coming to the BOEC Adaptive Ski Program through the Make a Wish Foundation:

The North Face Awards Grant to BOEC

Monday, November 1st, 2010

The North Face has awarded a $2500 grant to the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center to help children and families explore the outdoors. The BOEC was selected from hundreds of applications because of our work in the outdoors with children with disabilities and special needs. The grant is part of the inaugural commitment of $250,000 from The North Face Explore Fund, enabling more than 100 programs that will affect an estimated 85,000 young people.

“We are pleased to be a part of this national program and to provide greater opportunities for children with special needs to be inspired by the outdoors,” said Bruce Fitch, Executive Director of the BOEC.

The BOEC was established in 1976 to expand the potential of people with disabilities and special needs through outdoor adventure and education. Since it’s founding, the BOEC has provided opportunities for individuals and families to experience and appreciate the outdoors and adventure activities. Many of these activities require adaptive equipment and instruction to enable these participants to fully enjoy and safely enjoy activities that otherwise would be closed to them. In addition, BOEC has been able to advance their mission exponentially with the support of several important partner organizations such as The Children’s Hospital of Denver, the Mountain Mentors program in Summit County and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. These organizations have allowed the BOEC to integrate their outdoor programs with ongoing therapy and outreach.

“Our goal is to enable more people to get outside and explore their world in ways that are meaningful to them,” said Steve Rendle, President of The North Face. “We’re very proud to launch the Explore Fund and support BOEC and the other impressive organizations that are making outdoor exploration possible, and a priority, in communities across the country.”

BOEC will launch this winter a number of skiing camps and next summer a number of camping and rafting camps that will focus on children with special needs and their families to immerse in life-changing outdoor experiences. To learn more about all of the Explore Fund grantees and to keep up on their progress visit 

Passing of a Great Friend of the BOEC–Richard Griffith

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

We are sad to report the passing of Richard Griffith, a great friend and supporter of the BOEC.  Richard, 68, died on March 25, 2010 at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida after a brief illness.

Richard’s philanthropy is evident in every place he lived with his highest accomplishment being with the BOEC.  It was Richard’s generosity that created The Griffith Lodge. The lodge has been the central base and campus for the BOEC’s programs, serving hundreds of special needs children and adults over the years.  The Griffith Lodge has been the cornerstone of the BOEC’s success in recent years, allowing us to expand programs and provide high quality housing in addition to the adaptive adventure activities we are known for.  The lodge was renamed in 2005 as The Scott Griffith Lodge in memory of his son who was a student of the BOEC.

Richard was retired as Vice President of the Florida Division of Sysco Foods. He and his family traveled all over the world during his working years and after retirement. He was a former resident of Fayetteville, NC; Banner Elk, NC and Breckenridge, CO.  Richard is survived by his wife, Ann West Griffith of Windermere; son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Karen Griffith of Ocoee; daughter and son-in-law, Robin and Kevin Laird of Brookhaven, MS; and his step-mother, Donna L. Griffith of Boca Raton, FL.  He is also survived by his beloved Chihuahua, Nacho.

Prior to his illness, Richard and Ann had planned a visit to the BOEC this summer and see again the continuing impacts of their gift.  Richard Griffith will be sorely missed by all of us at the BOEC, and greatly honored for how he transformed our school.

BOEC and US Paralympics create Paralympic Sport Breckenridge

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) have partnered to create Paralympic Sport – Breckenridge.

Paralympic Sport – Breckenridge is a community-based sports club developed to involve youth and adults with physical and visual disabilities in sports and physical activity, regardless of skill level.  All programs and activities will be based in Breckenridge and run by the BOEC.

“U.S. Paralympics is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals with physical and visual disabilities to be physically active in their own communities.  Participation in physical activity enhances not only self-esteem and peer relationships, but also results in greater achievement, better overall health and higher quality of life.”  Mike Mushett, U.S. Paralympics Director of Community Programs.

With 21 million physically disabled Americans, including thousands of military personnel who’ve been severely injured while on active duty, this is an important community need.

The BOEC was established in Breckenridge, Colorado, in 1976 as a non-profit tax-exempt educational organization to provide outdoor experiences for people with disabilities and to train the instructors who work with special populations. Ultimately, the BOEC strives to integrate disability with ability, providing outdoor experiences to all.  We welcome people of all abilities from around the world to spectacular natural classrooms in the Rocky Mountains and beyond.

“The BOEC is proud to expand our services to people with disabilities and special needs by providing this opportunity to learn more about and participate in the Paralympic movement.  This is yet another way for our participants to expand their potential and push beyond perceived limitations.  Our initial focus will be on alpine and nordic skiing but will expand into other adventure sports in the future.”  Bruce Fitch, Executive Director of the BOEC

U.S. Paralympics is committed to working with community organizations across the United States to create 250 Paralympic Sport Clubs by 2012.

For more information about the BOEC and Paralympic Sport – Breckenridge, please contact Marci Sloan at (970) 453-6422 or

For more information about U.S. Paralympics, please contact Susan Katz, (719) 866-2068 or

About U.S. Paralympics:  U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is dedicated to becoming the world leader in the Paralympic sports movement and to promoting excellence in the lives of persons with physical disabilities. Visit the U.S. Paralympics website at www.usparalympics.orgAbout BOEC:  For more than 30-years, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) has provided life changing outdoor learning experiences to people of all abilities, with a focus on those with special needs. The BOEC provides a sense of freedom to those who are routinely excluded from activity due to a disability or special need. Whether skiing in the Adaptive Ski and Ride Program at Breckenridge or Keystone Ski Resorts, paddling the West’s great rivers, or mastering the Ropes Course, the BOEC inspires people of all abilities to discover new places, learn new skills and rekindle their spirit in the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

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