Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass Outing Club entering “Made Possible College Challenge”

In order to help sophomore Victoria Conrad, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts living with cerebral palsy and others with disabilities who wish to participate in outdoor activities, the UMass Outing Club entered the “Made Possible College Challenge,” sponsored by outdoor apparel maker Polartec, to win a $10,000 prize, which its leaders said it would use to fund an “adaptive sport program” helping students with disabilities to participate in a broader range of activities.

“If anyone tells me I can’t do anything, I’ll prove them wrong twice over,” Conrad said.

Despite her condition, Conrad has been an active member of the UMass Outing Club, and participates in such activities as canoeing on the Connecticut River.

“I try not to let my cerebral palsy define who I am,” added Conrad.

An adaptive sport program would allow students with disabilities to participate more readily in activities including whitewater rafting, canoeing and hiking.

The UMass Outing Club entered the contest after Club Vice President Jakob Palches learned about it.

“When I received the Polartec email, immediately I saw that they were going to give $10,000 and, within a split-second I said, ‘we’re starting an adaptive sport program at UMOC,’” said Palches in the club’s contest video.

The Outing Club said in their written submission for the contest that, if they win, the money would go towards “innovations like mountain wheelchairs, adaptive climbing equipment, and river portaging gurneys, individuals from all different backgrounds can experience new and incredible challenges.”

Lili Siegel, a Smith College student, told UMOC members she had never considered participating in outdoor activities until she heard about the initiative.

“I’ve never really done outdoor sports because there’s never really been the opportunity, but I’d like to try,” said Siegel.

Siegel, a freshman at Smith, has limited mobility and uses a walker.

When asked if she would like to go whitewater rafting, she exclaimed that the possibility would have recently been unthinkable.

“Whitewater rafting! Thinking about that now… I wouldn’t even think about doing that before, but it was because I’ve never had the chance.”

Tom McCarthy, the director of the Universal Access Program, an organization which provides outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors to state parks with disabilities, said many people with disabilities share the same sentiment as Siegel and don’t realize they can participate in such activities.

“Not all people with disabilities feel they can do these things, not all people with disabilities know about everything that’s out there right now. Getting the word out is really important,” he explained.

The Outing Club is one of the four finalists for the Polartec prize, competing against proposals from Middlebury College, the University of Idaho and Appalachian State University.

Those who want to support the UMOC can vote once a day until Nov. 30 on the Challenge’s Facebook page, and by voting, all are entered to win a Polartec prize package.

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected].

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