Mariposa reaches out to help kids soar
By Jill Ballinger
Reprinted by permission from the April 4, 2013 issue
“What is possible” is the motto of the Children’s Hospital Central California Adaptive Sports Program. On March 24, Mariposa helped make that statement come true for dozens of young people and their families.
The program provides recreational and athletic experiences for those with disabilities. On a sunny Sunday in Mariposa, Yosemite Zipline Adventure Ranch, the Yosemite-Mariposa Tourism Bureau and Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce helped stage one of those experiences.
The group traveled to Mariposa to “zip.” It may seem an extreme sport to even the most able-bodied, but these kids were ready.
Aidan, who said he is precisely “6 and threequarters” years old, wasn’t scared as he waited his turn on the line. Aidan lives in Visalia with his family, and he was excited to take his turn.
“I’m gonna be happy,” he said, anticipating soaring through the trees. Aidan was selected to wear the GoPro camera on his helmet to film the experience, and he was all smiles.
Dr. Jennifer Crocker, who is the medical director of Children’s rehabilitation center, said those smiles are what make the program’s efforts worth it.
“It’s fantastic,” she said of bringing the kids out to experience something like the zipline.
Crocker credited those in Mariposa who made it happen. “We implored and they delivered,” she said. “We can’t do it without people like this. They were so welcoming and open.”
Crocker and some of her staff visited the ranch last fall to make sure it would be possible. “That’s why we’re here today,” she said. “It’s great.”
Crocker’s program takes its 125 or so participants on activity trips once or twice a month. They have been waterskiing, rock climbing, racing and cycling. They play tennis and golf. She wanted to expand their horizons, so “flying” was in order.
The program began about five years ago. It serves children aged zero to 21 with physical disabilities.
While that may be the case, it sure didn’t seem like “dis” should have been used to label the participants’ abilities.
As the sun shone on the Mariposa hillside, the children got their equipment and instructions. Their excitement to get started was palpable.
They climbed into the vehicles and headed up the hill. Then, one by one, they and their family members each took a turn zipping across the sky.
Diane Vanaman and her two children spent the day at the ranch. Her almost 10-year-old daughter Adriana is in a wheelchair.
“She was really excited,” Vanaman said, and the expression on Adriana’s face confirmed that. “They were both really excited to come out and experience zip lining and having the freedom of just flying through the air.”
The experience is one that is very different from what a child in a wheelchair might experience on a daily basis. Yosemite Zipline Adventure Ranch (YZAR) owner Victoria Imrie said that’s what it’s all about.
“We have children, and we really love to get the kids out in nature, out here having fun and showing them what they can do,” she said.
Imrie said the experience will go down as a “cherished day” for her and her staff and all those who helped. “Making this event happen took a while and was a last minute rush, but we believe it turned out perfectly, thanks to all who answered my call to action, she said.
Those include the sponsoring of Belle the Balloon a-Twister (Bootjack Family Connection), cash donations by Ladybug Embroidery, Mary Bass of San Joaquin Drugs and Linda Dinnel. Dave’s B.B.Q provided sandwiches, with Savoury’s giving the chafing dishes and ice.
Imrie said the community effort is working, in volunteer and for-profit ways. “My work along side the tourism bureau, chamber of commerce and Mariposa Business Association really encourages me that we are all pulling for the same team, not only for fledgling businesses such as ours but to showcase all that we are lucky enough to have in our community and county,” she said.
YZAR is proud of its family of employees, too. “We couldn’t have been prouder of our team of guides, who all have the hearts of lions and felt privileged to be able to use their strength, skills and compassion to give the children and their families a day they will remember forever,” she said.
Already, YZAR is planning to make this an annual event for Children’s Hospital. The ranch, along with the tourism bureau, have already pledged donations to the program’s annual gala dinner in April.