Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) has announced its 2021 Annual Awards of Excellence winners.
Cincinnati Parks Foundation won 1st Place in the Adaptive Programming category for the Fall be.well Adaptive Hiking Program!
“Parks and recreation professionals throughout Ohio work every day to improve the quality of life of the people they serve,” said OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward. “This effort is a shining example of that kind of work, and we are pleased to be able to present this award.”
ABOUT THE BE.WELL ADAPTIVE HIKING PROGRAM
Each participant received a colorful, Cincinnati Parks Passport book. Each week, participants were emailed a park assignment from the Passport booklet. They had the option to self-complete the hike or to schedule rides on the Luke5Adventures‘ Rosies. After completing their hike, they received a stamp in the Passport, which could be used to redeem prizes. Participants were offered teambuilding teleconferencing with their peers, via Zoom weekly, and personal appointments with Cincinnati Children’s physical therapists. As an 81-person team, participants completed 252 individual hikes!
On Halloween Day participants enjoyed a Halloween Trick-Or-Treat hike through the woods. The trails were lined with carved pumpkins and candy. Most participants and volunteers attended in costumes. As COVID canceled many families’ Halloween plans, this gave them a fun, safe alternative and was hugely successful.
The program focused on getting people with childhood onset disabilities and their families active outdoors in Parks. Research suggests that children with disabilities engage in levels of physical activity that are approximately 30% lower than national fitness guidelines. They also spend double the amount of time in sedentary behavior relative to typically developing peers. The implications of not moving are serious with long-term negative effects.
A growing body of research shows that spending time outdoors in parks improves physical and psychological health. By providing guided, safe programming for families in this community, participants were able to grow their confidence in their physical and social ability, boost their mood and wellbeing, and learn first-hand about the positive impacts that accessible Parks can make in their lives.
One participant told us this was her first time ever enjoying the forest: “I’ve been to camps and I haven’t been able to ever hike trails. But now, I can hike trails and see everything, the trails and the scenery.”
Especially important during the early onset of the pandemic, this program gave families a safe option to get out and socialize. Post-program evaluations reported improvements in some participants’ social skills and participants reported feeling more socially successful and experienced a greater sense of worth as a person.
This program brought in a new special partnership with non-profit Luke5Adventures. This organization uses custom-built all-terrain wheelchairs, called “Rosies.” The Rosies use special handles, shock absorption, all-terrain wheels, and are very different from typical wheelchairs. Trained volunteers can move “hikers” of any ability over rough trails, down staircases, across creek beds, and much more. For many participants, these innovative chairs make it possible to be immersed in nature in ways that would be otherwise impossible.
ABOUT THE OPRA AWARDS OF EXCELLECE
Incorporated in 1963, OPRA is a non-profit, public interest organization representing over 2000 professionals and citizen board members striving to provide quality parks and recreation facilities and opportunities for all Ohioans while protecting and preserving Ohio’s natural resources, positively impacting local economies and health and wellness of its citizens. The awards were judged by a panel of parks and recreation professionals from around Ohio.