Ten-year-old Maleah McCune loves being outside and playing with her friends, whether they’re biking, paddleboarding, skiing, or playing hockey. Since she has trouble using some muscles due to her muscular dystrophy, she uses specialized adaptive equipment to enjoy the outdoors.
While some kids learn how to ride bikes first with a tricycle and then training wheels, Maleah took a different approach. She first learned how to use a foot-pump trike and hand cycle, and today she uses specialized biking equipment which provides additional body support.
Similarly, she used an assortment of specialized equipment to help her learn to ski. Starting with a sit-ski, she progressed to using a glider, which looks a little like a walker. Today, she skis independently using outriggers on her ski poles which help with balance.
Maleah participates in many of these activities through Teton Adaptive Sports. In the summer, the organization provides an array of programming, from whitewater rafting to canoeing, biking, and paddleboarding. In winter, sled hockey and skiing are the two biggest draws.
The programs are for people of every ability and age, and the organization has a collection of adaptive equipment in a variety of sizes to help kids, teens, and adults experience the outdoors. Program participants include everyone from injured veterans to young children.
The nonprofit also provides scholarships to remove financial barriers to participation, which is especially important since some pieces of equipment cost upwards of $10,000. In 2017, Maleah’s mom, Liz Acosta-McCune joined the Teton Adaptive Sports board. She is focusing on fundraising to help the program grow and expand. The organization also partners with outfitters to help people achieve big goals, like summiting the Grand Teton with Exum Mountain Guides or going on an overnight
kayaking trip on Jackson Lake with OARS.
“People choose to live here to be outdoors and do the recreation activities that give us our quality of life,” says Teton Adaptive Sports executive director Christy Fox. “Teton Adaptive Sports strives to make sure people with disabilities have the same opportunities.”
While many adaptive programs in other locations focus on indoor sports like basketball, Teton Adaptive Sports prides itself on its outdoor focus, which is well-suited to a community like Jackson.
“Outdoor recreation is part of the culture here,” says program director Cherene Vanian. “I think interactions with the outdoors bring soul, connection with nature, and introspection, and participants get a lot out of outdoor recreation specifically.”