Yesterday we had a special guest named Aimee Copeland come out to paddle with Canoemobile on the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. We warn you in advance that this story may encourage you to do things that you didn’t think you could.
Aimee is an amazing young woman who garnered national attention a few years ago when a zip line accident occurred in a river near her friend’s house. While in the air, the zip line broke and Amy fell into the river where she received a deep gash in her leg. Unfortunately, the water harbored a flesh-eating bacteria which resulted in an amputation of her left leg up to her hip, and another amputation of her right leg below her knee. The doctors also had to eventually amputate both of her hands.
Amy is now an advocate who wishes to start a foundation for people with disabilities that will use nature and other holistic healing methods to help them live whole and fulfilling lives. She came out to paddle with us to learn more about Wilderness Inquiry, Canoemobile, and the Chattahoochee Nature Center! Watch her recent interview on Good Morning America that tells a bit more about her story.
Aimee was an incredibly enthusiastic and engaging person who happily joined our first boat group this morning and paddled with a group of school children. Klari Prikazsky used her therapeutic recreation background to figure out the best way to create a comfortable paddle for Aimee, using an ace bandage to attach our small orange adaptive paddle to Aimee’s arm. Then, Klari and Clarence, a Chattahoochee Nature Center board member, helped Aimee hop from stool to stool as she climbed into the Voyageur canoe.
As often happens, a 7th grade girl named Zamariah was incredibly scared to get in a canoe, and told me later that she was seriously thinking of not going– until she saw Aimee get in the canoe. Zamariah told her teacher that Aimee’s presence inspired her to get in the canoe even though she was scared. During the group debrief when asked to identify one moment from the day they were proud of themselves, Zamariah said she was proud of herself for “taking a risk, even though I didn’t want to, and trying a new experience by going out of my comfort zone.”
Later Aimee joined the WI crew for lunch, and showed us her adaptive gear that she uses for kayaking. She answered all of our questions about the type of gear she uses, and asked us all about the type of trips WI leads. We made plans to go dog sledding together in the BWCA with WI this winter.
Special thanks to DeAnn Fordham at the Chattahoochee Nature Center for finding, contacting, and bringing Aimee out to meet us today! We are grateful to all of our partners, especially RBC Wealth Management-U.S., the National Park Foundation, Toad&Co, and so many others for helping to connect such a diverse and wonderful group of people to the natural world. “Find Your Park” is not just a slogan for Canoemobile; it’s truly happening!
Thank you again to everyone who was a part of such a big, important day!
By Cory Maria Dack, Wilderness Inquiry