Valley Life for All: How Tim Burr pioneered an adaptive program for the outdoors
Special to the Vail Daily
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities. Twenty-seven percent of Americans experience some disability. One hundred percent are a part of our community. Each has a story.
Meet Tim: He is 23 years old. He has a cervical spinal cord injury and loves to be in nature. Inspired by organizations that helped him and opened his eyes to the positive side of life, he is “paying it forward” as the founder of Return to Dirt, an organization that aims to make anyone backcountry capable. Here is his story.
A group of friends and I were doing some ski filming and gearing up for the season. We were skiing backcountry lines off Kebler Pass on November 18, 2014. I had a gentle but unexpected crash and ended up breaking my neck at C5 and was immediately paralyzed from the chest down. I went through surgery and was in the Intensive Care Unit for approximately two weeks.
I got shipped off to Craig hospital. The saying is, you never want to be there, but it’s the best place you could be. They really know what they’re doing.
The High Fives Foundation picked me up as an athlete before I was even out of ICU. They are a nonprofit program whose main goal is to be the safety net for extreme sports athletes who are injured. They provide a community and a support system and resources.
The Bridging Bionics Foundation started up right about the time I was getting home. They’re a local program that makes it possible for people with disability to participate in rehabilitation and therapy outside of insurance. Very few other communities have something like that. We’re lucky to have that and a lot of people put time, energy and resources into making that possible.
All of these people, in each of these organizations, showed me that there are so many opportunities. I was inspired by their generosity and tenacity to put together these programs that had given me so much and had really opened my eyes to the positive side of life. They gave me the confidence to try and do the same for others. With friends, I launched Return to Dirt as the adaptive program of the greater outdoors.
We have adaptive off-road vehicles that are custom built to cater to a huge range of different disabilities. We have the experience packaged and ready to go. It’s highly malleable for a number of different interests and experiences that people would want.
Some people just want to get in and drive. Other people don’t care at all about driving and they’re more interested in accessing a certain area for whatever the activity may be: sightseeing, leaf peeping, fly fishing, or returning to a spot they used to camp with friends. There’s nothing that we can’t do and we’re flexible enough that we can put together experiences for people. Reach out to us at our website or social media.
When considering accessibility in the mountains or the backcountry, Return to Dirt’s outlook is rather than try to make the backcountry accessible, we make ourselves backcountry capable.
Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice. Request a training or join the conversation at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”