At the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), they literally teach the blind to ski. Among many other feats. The BOEC is now a global outreach program, reaching out to those who do not have the ability and showing them that they really do. Nothing is impossible, no matter what challenges are faced. From showing quadriplegics how to traverse a ropes course high up in the air to giving an amputee the opportunity to see what fly fishing is like, the BOEC’s volunteers and programs can do what seems impossible.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the BOEC in Breckenridge, Colorado and see first hand what their operations are like, how they accomplish what they do, and learn the challenges this non-profit organization faces. Although the BOEC has grown to international fame and has managed to accomplish the above mentioned feats of impossibility, the organization faces hard obstacles of its own.
At an automotive event organized by friends at Rocky Mountain Redline, I met the development director for BOEC, Marci Sloan, and heard the story of the organization and how it’s helped so many for so long. Founded in 1976, the Education Center began as a non-profit dedicated to improving lives by using Colorado’s epic natural beauty; giving access to the outdoors to those who normally would not have it. The mother of a girl with autism told us how her daughter blossomed from an introverted, sometimes uncontrollable child into a smiling, interactive girl after learning to ski at the BOEC. She continues to go every year.
The BOEC is almost entirely funded by private donations. Some operations and upkeep, including access to public lands adjacent to the facility as well as access to recreation areas around the state of Colorado and nationally, are funded through a trust. But about 70 percent of the organization’s budget is from private donors, including everyday folks like you or I and businesses who support the BOEC’s mission. I also learned that the organizations primary off-road vehicle, an old model four-wheel drive van that seats about 15 people, is nearing the end of its ability to serve. The aged, now-rickety machine will not last long under its workload. Unless something changes. This was why our friends at Redline introduced the automotive press to the BOEC while in Breckenridge. In hopes of gaining enough interest that together we could help this worthy cause in acquiring a replacement van.
After that introduction, it was important that I learn more about the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. So I visited their center of operations with fellow journalist Tim Esterdahl. We met with Ella Greene, association program director and operations manager at BOEC, and toured the facility. We saw people in wheelchairs learning to assemble and put on harnesses for the ropes course located right next to the large cabin-like building the BOEC occupies on the outskirts of Breckenridge. A beautiful lake sits to one side of the building and the mountains rise up behind it. Trees surround the property.
Ella showed us the big BOEC lodge, which can sleep over 20 people and has facilities for the gear and equipment storage an operation this large requires. Near that lodge is a smaller, cabin-like structure heated by a homemade stove. That cabin is the original BOEC building, now set up as a guest house. The stove is a handmade affair made from an old ski lift carriage. It was designed and welded by a blind man who attended the BOEC’s programs for some time. It’s a beautiful metallic tribute to the kind of things that happen at a place like this.
Everything about the BOEC is like that homemade stove: functional, beautiful, and imbued with love. The volunteers in the BOEC’s programs are often coaching and being taught at the same time. Experienced climbers, skiiers, canoers, and fishers, attending the BOEC’s programs often double as mentors and guides for the newcomers.
The goals of the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center are good ones and its mission is worthy of our praise and support. This jewel of Colorado is a beacon to those around the world who may not feel that they are as capable as they could be. No obstacle is too large, no challenge is insurmountable at the BOEC. There are plentiful examples of people overcoming PTSD, amputation, brain injury, autism, quadriplegia, down’s syndrome, blindness, and more. Then going beyond what seems possible at the BOEC.
Watching a man in a wheelchair check the harnesses of a blind man and a woman whose left arm is gone pat the back of a friend with down’s syndrome shows the kind of camaraderie and inclusion that the BOEC fosters. There are things one can witness that affect one deeply and forever. Those things happen daily in Breckenridge.
If you can help the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in any way, we encourage you to reach out and do so: https://www.boec.org