Paralysis from climbing accident doesn’t keep Malloy-Post inside
Published in the Durango Herald on 6/19/2017 :
Rosa Malloy-Post was 23 years old when she was paralyzed from the waist down after a climbing accident in 2013.
The New York native moved to Durango in 2009 to take a job with Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, and she, like many people who find this pocket of Southwest Colorado, immediately took to all the outdoors offers.
But on May 4, 2013, Malloy-Post’s life was forever changed when she and a few friends went on a trip to Utah’s Indian Creek. While climbing lead on a route in the Bridger Jack Towers area, she fell and broke her back.
For the next two and a half months, Malloy-Post recovered in the hospital. Then she started figuring out ways to not only live independently, but also to sustain her outdoor pursuits.
Recently, Malloy-Post was awarded one more tool to help with that effort: a “GRIT Freedom Chair,” a wheelchair designed to better navigate rough terrain.
“Like any other person in Durango, I have a lot of different pieces of equipment,” Malloy-Post said. “And I think this piece will be really good for certain aspects of my life, like river trips, camping and going to music festivals.”
In 2010, a student-led research project at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as MIT, was tasked with finding ways to improve wheelchair performance over difficult terrain.
The project took nearly two years, said Tish Scolnik, a former student that was in the group, with dozens of prototypes requiring the feedback of hundreds of people to fine-tune a chair that would meet the demand of many uses.
As the students delved more deeply into the project, they realized more and more people were in need of a wheelchair that could work not on just trails, but also backyards, beaches or even on rough walkways.
So, after what they deemed a successful design, the students took their wheelchair one step further. In 2012, they started a company offering its signature “off-road” Freedom Wheelchair, known as GRIT.
“The feedback’s been pretty awesome,” said Scolnik. “We have a wall in our office where we put up pictures of all the places people have gone.”
Last year, Scolnik said the company started the “Pay it Forward” fund, taken from a portion of sales, for people who could benefit from the wheelchair but can’t afford it.
Malloy-Post in May was the second recipient of the award, Scolnik said.
“We look at a lot of things with our applicants,” Scolnik said. “In particular, her spirit of adventure stood out. Clearly, she’s a very outdoorsy woman that finds a lot of meaning in nature. And, she’s very community driven.”
Indeed, Malloy-Post said she intends to share the wheelchair with any members in the community who could also find it useful. She said those interested should contact Adaptive Sports.
Ann Marie Meighan, executive director of Adaptive Sports, said there is all sorts of equipment for people with disabilities as they try to continue with activities that gave them fulfillment pre-injury.
“Adaptive equipment is really evolving as an industry,” Meighan said. “There’s a lot of people tinkering in their garages. Somebody needed it, so they built it, and then they make it for other people.”
Meighan said the Freedom Chair will likely fill an important gap between traditional wheelchairs and a piece of equipment such as an off-road hand cycle, which is designed for extreme terrain.
“This could certainly be the difference between someone being able to move around outdoors independently as opposed to relying on someone else for help,” she said.
And for Malloy-Post, it’s been a constant journey to accomplish that independence.
After her injury, she enrolled at Fort Lewis College and earned a degree in biology. Now 27, Malloy-Post is constantly spending time in the outdoors when she’s not working as a medical assistant at Mercy Regional Medical Center.
“It’s a lot to go from being a 23-year-old, completely independent person to having to learn how to do everything all over again,” Malloy-Post said. “But I do what I have to do to make my life meaningful and purposeful.”
By Ann Butler
Every year, the Durango Adaptive Sports Association invites yours truly to join it for some of the Dave Spencer Ski Classic activities, and every year, I haven’t made it for one reason or another.
This year gets a gold star on the calendar, as I finally made it to the Awards Dinner that wraps up the weekend, and boy, am I glad I did. Held at the DoubleTree Hotel, the high spirits, the many jokes and the amount of money raised – more than $93,000 – made it one of the big events of the year.
Twenty-five teams and 21 business sponsors, along with a lot of generous friends and family, made the event so successful.
The 29th annual classic, which is named after ASA’s founder, was Feb. 24 to 26. It was Karen Esser’s 10th outing as “Chick in Charge,” as she is affectionately called around the ASA office.
The headliner was ASA participant Brian Shafer and his parents, Mary and John, who year after year raise the most by any individual for the ASA, which believes outdoor recreation should be accessible to everyone. This year, their total was $8,655.
Their secret? An investment of time and commitment. It starts with handwritten notes to friends and family, talking about what the program has meant to them. That’s hundreds of handwritten notes, folks, a true effort in these days of texting and emails.
The Shafers have a ritual after the notes go out. Brian gets the mail every night, reads the responses to his parents and John Shafer ceremonially enters the donations on the spreadsheet.
Shafer’s longtime teammate, Dave Trautmann, was not far behind. A former ASA board president, Trautmann raised more than $6,500 this year, making him the Top Fundraising Adult. With two members in the lead like that, their team, which also includes Miles Lillard, Doug Miller and Corbin Miller, had the highest amount raised by a team, bringing in more than $20,000.
They were also good for some laughs. With a theme always topically connected to local news, this year, they became the Lake Nighthorse Fish School. Last year, if memory serves, they paid homage to the dearly departed Arc of History.
Anyone who doubted the need for ASA in our community would have been convinced otherwise after hearing Lynn Martens speak about the joys, sorrows and challenges of her “profoundly disabled son,” Cole. The activities and support ASA has provided for her family has made ASA staff and volunteers part of the family, she said. There was not a dry eye in the house.
One of those volunteers, who has made measurable contributions to the organization with both spirit and gusto, was honored with the organization’s highest honor. The Dave Spencer Award went to Paula Mills, the board president, who has also organized fundraisers, stuffed envelopes and done whatever else needed doing during her volunteer years with the organization.
The Dave Spencer Ski Classic is an event with a lot of moving parts, starting with the welcome party on the Friday night, held this year for the first time in First National Bank of Durango’s new community meeting room. Saturday was Race Day, where teams and individuals win prizes for best predicting their run times, speed and memorable wipe-outs. The teams generally are made up of ASA participants and supporters.
Shawn Glasco is both precise and swift, predicting his target time, 14.95 minutes, on the nose, as well as having the fastest men’s time.
The Saddle Butte/Arc of the Southwest team came within 0.17 of predicting the cumulative time for all five members – Isabel Mora, Kaylan Wait, Martie Woodford, David Wait and Joey Grzyb.
The fastest women’s skier was Aleah Austin of Team Coke, who made it down the race course in 17 minutes and 17 seconds. (She’s speedy – now a young teen, she first won this award when she was in the sixth grade.) The adult Coca-Cola team, consisting of Frank and Tiffany Mapel, Mike Somrak and Jimmy Knight and Meredith Mapel, was the fastest team, with a time of 1:31:44.
The Sunday of the classic is dedicated to the Mountain Rally, a wacky combination of a poker run, trivia challenge and scavenger hunt. The Force was with the Young Jedis, who won both the rally and Top Fundraising Kid Team for bringing in close to $4,500 for Adaptive Sports. Team members were Austin Romero, Karson Harbison, Kyler Harbison, Brandon Papi and Jacob Papi.
The Community Partner Award (a service team) went to the Purgatory Resort Ski Patrol Team, which raised more than $2,000. Members were Andrea Zeiner, Mel Russer, Mitch Carrier, Liz Edwards and Robert Rydiger.
Because costumes are part of the fun, an award goes to the Best Team with a Theme. First National Bank’s “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys” won hands-down. Members were Dana McCrary, Scott McCrary, Alissa Wolf, Chad Vandam and Elliott Fitz. (Picture monkey suits with banana accessories that were consumed during the day.)
Jackie Dowling, whose family moved to Durango specifically because of Adaptive Sports, and who learned to ski just this year, scored the Body Beater Award, also known as the Wild Wheelie Award for epic crashes. Because she skied in a cow onesie, the award was temporarily renamed the Cow Tipping Award this year.
Congrats to all involved.
He has led the Durango Adaptive Sports Association through remodels, vehicle purchases and program expansions benefitting hundreds of participants, and now Tim Kroes is stepping down after 25 years with the organization.
Adaptive Sports provides summer and winter recreational opportunities for people with cognitive and physical disabilities.
“I’ll probably be back where I started, volunteering,” he said at his recent retirement party. “This is a good time to pass the torch because we have this amazing young team ready to take it.”
Kroes, who is from Michigan, met his wife, Susan, at the University of Colorado-Boulder. The couple moved to Durango after spending seven years in San Francisco, where she was the one who discovered Adaptive Sports, and preceded him in serving as the organization’s executive director.
“We stayed at the Caboose Motel and didn’t know a single person,” Kroes said. “While I looked for a job, I volunteered for Adaptive to get cheaper skiing and to give something back. I’m the one who got something back. For 25 years, there wasn’t a week that went by when I didn’t get a little choked up reading a letter, getting a phone call or a hug from a student.”
Kroes, 57, held just about every position in the organization. Starting as a volunteer, he was assistant program director and program director before becoming the executive director, a position he held for more than a decade in two different stints. He took a two-year hiatus in the middle while he and his family traveled the world, and returned in 2007.
“A lot of nonprofit directors in the area look at Tim as the example of a perfect nonprofit executive director,” said Lynn Martens, who sits on the Adaptive Sports board and works with numerous nonprofits in her communications business. “He’s the executive director role model.”
The work Kroes has done has changed people’s lives…
What do the Abominable Snowmen, Bookworms, Fur Balls and the Gold King Swim Team have in common?
Stumped? They were all team names for the 18th annual Dave Spencer Ski Classic, that one-of-a-kind fundraiser for the Durango Adaptive Sports Association on the last weekend in February.
Twenty-seven teams participated in the weekend Race Day and Mountain Rally, with most getting into the spirit with themes and costumes. The awards banquet at the DoubleTree Hotel topped 175 attendees for the first time, and 21 sponsors, either for the annual, winter or Dave Spencer classic itself, helped make it a success.
For Race Day, individuals and teams estimate what their time will be on the course, so it’s not only the fastest but also the best guessers. Pat Barrett, on the April Fools team, was only 0.01 seconds off his estimate, which merits a “Holy cow!” The Williams Co. team of five members was only 0.29 seconds off its cumulative estimate, which is thiiiiis close to meriting its own exclamation point.
The Wild Ones, also known as the Abominable Snowmen, took home best costume honors, which is saying something in this duded-out crowd. Made up of Adaptive participants Kristin Ingle, Lucas Talbot and Luciano Trujillo, with assistance from volunteers Mary Lasser and Ally Kaufman, you could have put an eye out with those “carrot” noses. The Fur Balls took wackiest costume, which, once again, is saying something.
Shawn Glasco lived up to his Bombers team’s name as the fastest man, and Isabelle Washburn of the Coca-Cola Kids Team was the fastest woman down the course.
Of course, the event is all about raising money for Adaptive Sports, which provides outdoor recreation opportunities for people with cognitive and physical disabilities. So awards went to the top fundraisers, too.
The top fundraising kids team was the Bookworms, who raised $5,600. (They had book jackets taped all over their ski clothes, which also makes them the most erudite team in my book. So kudos to Jacob Papi, Brandon Papi, Kyler Harbison, Carson Harbison and Austin Romero.)
The San Juan Mountains took away Alana Nichols’ ability to walk, but it never diminished her love for the mountains she calls home.
Nichols, 32, was in high school when a trip in the backcountry north of Hesperus changed her life. While attempting a back flip, the snowboarder from Farmington landed back-first on a rock and was paralyzed from the waist down.
The injury did not slow Nichols, a four-time Paralympic athlete in wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing. She became the first American woman to win gold medals in the summer and winter Games, and last weekend, Nichols made more history when she became the first adaptive skier to descend Silverton Mountain on a monoski.
“I feel at home every time I come back here. The San Juan Mountains have been a blessing for me through and through,” Nichols said Tuesday in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “I learned how to snowboard at Purgatory and then broke my back and re-learned how to sit-ski at Purgatory. This area of the country has taken parts of me and given them back.
“All-in-all, I’m incredibly blessed by those mountains, and feel even more connected to them now that I’ve skied Silverton.”
Silverton Mountain offers some of the most difficult ski terrain in the continental United States. The base sits at 10,400 feet, and the mountain offers one chairlift that rises to 12,300 feet. It is well known for its heli-skiing and backcountry challenges.
Nichols said Silverton Mountain was her ultimate bucket-list destination from the time she started to snowboard as a 14-year-old.
She planned to spend the New Year’s holiday in Silverton with friends while on vacation from her new home in San Diego, where she is training for paracanoe in hopes of qualifying for the 2015 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.
Plans quickly went into place for her first descent of the famously steep mountain.
“The stoke was high in town for me. Everyone who saw me in the parking lot, lift line, on the shuttle bus, they were all giving high-fives and telling me how great it was to see me out,” Nichols said. “I felt really special.”
Nichols, who is now retired from alpine ski racing, took a team of five with her Saturday and skied a chute on the West face known as Tiger No. 2. After testing her turns and the snow conditions, she went up and took the Liftline down. She called the Liftline the most difficult task because of thick, choppy snow, and she wished she had brought a wider powder ski.
Nichols admitted to having the same nerves she would before a big Paralympic alpine ski race, but being part of an enthusiastic group helped her find a comfort zone. “It was amazing to watch,” said Nichols’ friend and ski partner William Lampe. “She would maybe get the point of her ski stuck in deep snow and need help to get the point out, but, if she ever fell or went down, she could correct herself easily and keep going. As far as I could tell, nothing bothered her at all. It’s tough skiing for anybody, and I was exhausted watching her, but everything went really smooth…”
Supporters of several local nonprofits can leverage their donations by making their contribution on Colorado Gives Day, which is taking place for 24 hours starting at midnight Monday.
About 15 local charities have been vetted by the Community First Foundation, which organizes the event founded in 2010. More than 1,800 nonprofits are included in the list online, where donations are made. Information about each nonprofit is also available on the website.
In 2014, seven La Plata County nonprofits participated, said Kayla Arnesen, director of strategic communications for Community First. A total of $29,913 was donated by 168 donors last year.
Donations made on the day will help the nonprofits earn a portion of the $1 million Incentive Fund. A special drawing will also be held for all the new participants in Colorado Gives who receive at least 30 donations that day. The prize? Five thousand dollars.
Colorado Gives Day has raised $83 million for Colorado nonprofits since its inception, including $26.2 million in 2014, more than $1 million each hour.
Some donors might be bewildered by the difference between Giving Tuesday, a national day of giving that took place Dec. 1, after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday was in its fourth year, and is a national event.
“Our program has traditionally fallen on the second Tuesday of December, and Giving Tuesday has chosen the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving,” Arnesen said. “Giving Tuesday is a great reminder that the Colorado-specific day is fast approaching. We applaud all Giving Tuesday does to increase philanthropy and volunteerism throughout the country.”
Donations may be made Tuesday at www.coloradogives.org to qualify for the Incentive Fund.
Kayla Arnesen of Community First Foundation identified 12 La Plata County charities on the 2015 list; Susan Lander found 16. Hers include Arnesen’s 12, and adds others that are regional favorites, including the Mesa Verde Foundation, Downtown Colorado Inc., Medicine Horse Center and Mountain Studies Institute.
The other La Plata County nonprofits on the list this year include Durango Arts Center; San Juan Mountains Association; the Southern Ute Community Action Programs; Wolfwood Refuge; Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County; Great Old Broads for Wilderness; United Way of Southwest Colorado; La Plata Open Space Conservancy; the Durango Adaptive Sports Association; Music in the Mountains; the Durango Education Foundation; and La Plata County Humane Society.
In general, it’s considered a good sign when an organization outgrows its space, and that’s certainly the case for the Durango Adaptive Sports Association and its building at Purgatory Resort. “We actually outgrew it 20 years ago,” said Tim Kroes, executive director of ASA, which serves people with cognitive and physical disabilities. “We’ve been having conversations with Purgatory for years about building our own building, and they were willing to donate a piece of land, but the infrastructure’s not installed yet in that area.”
The staff members and board of directors finally realized the timing for a new building is so far out, work needed to be done to the current building to carry them to the time when they can build their own facility.
“It will happen at some point,” Kroes said. “This is a temporary solution that may carry us for five years, eight years, maybe 10 years. It’s a more immediate solution that was very cost-effective.”
ASA did some fundraising, but the addition is being built in large part with the help of Jerry Pope and Emil Wanatka, owners of Timberline Builders. Wanatka sits on the ASA board. They have recruited in-kind and material donations that are bringing the costs to less than 50 cents on the dollar.
Without all the donations and in-kind work, Kroes estimates the total cost of the addition would have been about $130,000 to $140,000. However, because of all the assistance ASA has received, the final price tag for the group will be about $65,000 to $70,000, he said.
“People would come in and say, ‘This is what we can donate,’” said Ann Marie Meighan, program director of Adaptive Sports. “Then they’d come back to us and say, ‘We actually want to do more. What can we do?’”
The nonprofit is adding about 952 square feet, nearly doubling the usable space to the old 1,000-square-foot building, which was a Forest Service cabin built in 1942.
Meighan is most excited about the new utility room, which will house a washer and dryer and accessible shower, but having enough cabinet space in the kitchen will also be a welcome change.
The building’s also going to be safer, she said, because the Durango Fire Protection District helped install fire sprinklers throughout the building, including in the older sections…
If you saw a group of people giddily clinking glasses at the Ore House on Tuesday, you might want to find out what they were celebrating.
They were the Top Fundraising Team and the Top Theme Team at the Dave Spencer Ski Classic at the end of February, and the award comes with $50 gift cards thanks to the generosity of the folks at the restaurant.
Dave Trautmann’s team raised $18,000.
It seems like the variations on the theme of the Arc of History are endless and endlessly entertaining.
Trautmann’s team – which also included Brian Shafer, Miles Lillard and Michelle and Mark James – took on the theme as the T. Rex Tumblers, putting on their creative caps to get the sculpture fit for skiing. Lillard used his mojo on some Domino’s Pizza boxes, so they became the rocks. Trautmann took on the tail, scoring a vaccuum hose, nozzle intact, at the Methodist Thrift Shop. And Shafer, continuing his run as the top fundraiser who’s also an Adaptive Sports participant at the event, with $7,000, became the dinosaur head. In fact, he had two dinosaur heads, a large one for the costume competition and a smaller one he could put atop his helmet so he could get under the safety bar on the lift and ski. Trautmann raised almost $4,700, and Lillard brought in $5,800, so they came in first and second place in the Top Fundraising Adult Category.
(Shafer, who has been on the team for nine years, is also in charge of the aforementioned glass clinking, a responsibility he takes quite seriously.)…
The day Jennifer McCallson’s world turned upside down plays in her mind like a silent film.
The auditorium is rocking with hundreds of high-schoolers on the edge of their seats, pumping up their role models and mentors – college-level cheerleaders in a fierce competition. The finishing number is a showstopper. McCallson opens her palms and lets the energy run through her. She takes off at dizzying speed, gaining momentum – a progression of tumbling passes. She is a treat to watch.
Then life starts to be counted in seconds, fractions, inches. In an instant, she collides midair with her male teammate. He lands on her neck, shattering her fifth cervical vertebra and crushing her spinal cord. She is fully conscious and instantly paralyzed from the neck down.
“One or two inches off, or seconds, and I wouldn’t be here,” McCallson remembers. “Just a slight alteration in my footing – it would have all been different.” A split second – fortuitous or calamitous, depending how you view it.”
She was 20, and doctors told her she would never walk again or live independently, let alone participate in any of the sports she loved. Her athletic dream was over. “Move on with your life,” they said.
She’s been proving them wrong ever since.
Since that day 15 years ago, McCallson has earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management with an emphasis in wellness and fitness. She hand-cycled a half marathon, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, peddled at a spin-a-thon, jet-skied in the Pacific and snow-skied on Purgatory Mountain in Colorado. She’s kayaked, swam and surfed. She’s been riding horses for the last four years.
And she volunteers tirelessly for organizations that serve people with physical disabilities. She has made it a matter of principle to encourage the mind to go wherever the heart dares.
“I’m not going to let my fear get in the way of what I’m about to do,” she said. “I’m going to have an amazing life, and it won’t be hindered by the fact that I use a wheelchair…”