Nonprofit leaders seek to increase adaptive outdoor recreation opportunities

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Julie Tickle took over last summer as the executive director of DREAM Adaptive and Naomi Morrison recently joined the nonprofit as its director of development. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

DREAM Adaptive’s leaders have a vision for the nonprofit to expand its services in the coming years.

Executive Director Julie Tickle and Director of Development Naomi Morrison want to break down even more barriers through DREAM while encouraging as many individuals as possible to enjoy outdoor recreation during all seasons.

“We want to open up more to what’s available,” Tickle said. “We hope each year to grow.”

Tickle joined the organization about two years ago and last summer took over as executive director, while Morrison was recently hired on as the program’s first director of development.

For nearly 35 years, DREAM Adaptive has been working to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities including military veterans.

Both women say working with DREAM provides the opportunity to assist everyone in getting out and playing in the outdoors.

“It’s important in that respect to make recreation for everyone,” Morrison says. “I can get out the door and do what I want. If we can help someone who needs assistance then I’m all for it — that’s why we’re here.”

Tickle says providing opportunities for outdoor recreation expands beyond participation.

“What I get from recreating is fun, living a healthy lifestyle, meeting friends — sports gives confidence,” she said. “For someone new to being able to recreate they can get a sense of self-worth and independence and then sometimes being able to go out and do these things on their own.”

Morrison is key to the expansion of DREAM’s offerings with a focus on cultivating donations to maintain existing programs while looking to expand. In the past, Tickle noted, the nonprofit has lacked the man-power to solicit donations and look farther into the future financially.

Morrison has a background working as an international-trade and domestic-energy/recycling business executive, as a journalist, as a sales associate at the Daily Inter Lake, as a community relations coordinator for North Valley Hospital, among other jobs. When she found the job opening at DREAM she says it was the perfect job she imagines herself staying with through to retirement.

“I was looking for a small nonprofit,” she said. “I believe in what we do. The moment I met Julie, I knew we’d be great together.”

Tickle too says she felt drawn to DREAM’s mission. She has experience working at the national level in adaptive sports, but she and her husband, Sam, were looking to relocate to a smaller town and she eventually found DREAM. She worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the Colorado Olympic Training Center and also the U.S. Paralympics.

“It really seems meant to be,” she said. “I’m committed to Whitefish and I’ve fallen into my dream position.”

DREAM programs include alpine ski/snowboarding, a backcountry powder camp, paddle boarding, kayaking and other watersports days that consist of water skiing, sit water skiing, wake boarding, tubing, boating and swimming. An official program launch of adaptive mountain biking is set to take place in the spring of 2019 with adaptive Nordic skiing slated for the winter of 2019-2020.

DREAM has had a small mountain biking program, but it wants to expand its reach and get more athletes involved in adaptive mountain biking.

Tickle said the Flathead Valley is one of the top 10 destinations for mountain biking so it only make sense to create an adaptive program around that.

“There’s so many different trails being built,” she said. “It allows for extreme riders or those who just want to take a walk in the woods, but wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It’s a wide breadth of experiences.”

She also noted that adaptive mountain bikes are often more expensive than adaptive road bikes and part of DREAM’s goal is to break down financial barriers for those who want to recreate.

Nordic skiing is also an area where DREAM would like to offer services noting that not everyone enjoys downhill skiing.

“I’m excited about that happening,” Morrison said. “I was a coach for Special Olympics for Nordic skiing and it seems like that has really come full circle.”

To learn more about DREAM Adaptive, visit dreamadaptive.org or call 406-862-1817.

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