Putting Adaptive Athletes Back in the Game

Idaho -- a community for everyone

Published online: Sep 14, 2020 Articles
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As a child, Lance Pounds spent his days like many other kids growing up in Idaho: he explored lookouts with his dad, crashed snowmobiles into ditches and periodically walked down the road to pet a domesticated bobcat. Hikes to waterfalls and the scent of white pine became a form of therapy to him as he grew up tackling the challenges that life threw his way. 

One of the most difficult challenges Lance has faced is the ongoing development of cerebral palsy. This condition makes his speech laborious and slow. It causes his walk to be unbalanced and his limbs to often move with uncontrollable jerks. As Lance puts it, the line connecting his body to his mind is perilous and oftentimes nonexistent. 

The missing link between what the mind wants and what the body does is all too familiar for people with physical disabilities. Luckily, Idahoans like Lance have a tool to help reconcile that link through activity, shared experiences and community. 

Idaho’s Challenged Athletes Foundation is a nonprofit organization specializing in helping people with physical disabilities get involved and stay involved in sports. CAF keeps children and adults off the sidelines by providing mobility camps and clinics across Idaho’s expansive outdoors, to help them gain the confidence and skills needed to take their first step towards an active life. 

Beyond training, CAF-Idaho hosts a year-round grant program to provide funding for adaptive sports equipment, travel and competition expenses. But most importantly, this organization is home to a community of adaptive athletes and supporters who believe that life is a team sport. Together, the adaptive sports community of CAF-Idaho has redefined what’s possible for Idahoans of all abilities. 

For Lance, the Challenged Athletes Foundation gave him a new lease on life, although his hikes look a little different than when he was a kid. Instead of walking on two feet, he now powers over rocks and dirt trails on a rugged tricycle, built to accommodate his unique muscles and movement. 

On top of an off-roading renegade, Lance has become a beacon to others in Idaho’s adaptive sports community including Willie Stewart, a single-arm amputee who has completed countless triathlons and a solo kayaking trip through the Grand Canyon; Brooklyn Gossard, an 8-year-old with transverse myelitis who surfs, skis and cycles; Heidi Pearson, a high school senior with paraplegia who now shreds across the ice in sled hockey; and Chris Manning, a single-arm amputee who is back up on his paddleboard, exploring Idaho’s lakes and rivers. 

These names are just a fraction of the 600-plus athletes who are part of the CAF-Idaho community. However, with more than 200,000 individuals living with permanent physical disabilities throughout our state, that community has room for growth. There are more grants to be awarded, and more GRIT chairs, prosthetics, sit skis and handcycles available to help put Idahoans back in the game. 

Idaho is for everyone. Together we lift, push, hike, bike, swim, ski, climb and keep breaking barriers, uniting through sport to drive Idaho forward. 

To learn more about  Adaptive Athletes Foundation-Idaho visit www.challengedathletes.org/idaho or join the CAF-Idaho Facebook group.

Click here to read more of the September issue of Idaho Falls Magazine.


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