Annual river trip helps connect women of all abilities

4Girls gift of $10,000 fully funds this year’s event

The National Ability Center hosted its first Women’s Independence in the Backcountry River Trip last year on Labyrinth Canyon on the lower Green River. This year’s excursion will be fully funded for all participants thanks to a $10,000 gift from the 4Girls Foundation, an organization that invests in initiatives that strengthen and elevate the voice of girls and women by providing a variety of enriching opportunities.
Courtesy of the National Ability Center

New Yorker Hannah Badain remembers her first river rafting trip with the National Ability Center in 2019.

“It was absolutely beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen before,” she said. “It felt unreal, and it was so nice to be somewhere that was away from the chaos of the city. It was like being present in a different way.”

Badain will be back in Utah for her third rafting excursion — the second in the nonprofit’s Women’s Independence in the Backcountry River Trip program — scheduled from Aug. 27-31 at Labyrinth Canyon on the lower Green River.

And she is grateful that the National Ability Center, an adaptive recreation nonprofit known also as the NAC, has received a $10,000 gift from the 4Girls Foundation, an organization that invests in initiatives that strengthen and elevate the voice of girls and women by providing a variety of enriching opportunities, which will fully fund the trip for her and 14 other women.

“I think it’s amazing that the organization is funding this,” she said. “Otherwise I think it would be more challenging for me and others to go on these trips. And these trips are a cool way to bring women together and give them a shared activity to do while connecting with one another.”

One of the reasons the 4Girls Foundation decided to gift the money was because the NAC’s mission aligns with 4Girls Foundation’s “values of equality, diversity, respect and community,” said Sara Perkins, who is on the 4Girls Foundation board of directors, in a statement.

“When 4Girls learned about the Women’s Independence in the Backcountry River Trip, we immediately knew that it was something we would want to be a part of,” she said. “The first trip in 2022 allowed women of all abilities to explore the outdoors and the backcountry in a way many people will never have the opportunity to experience. It is a perfect example of the benefits adaptive recreation has on physical health, mental health and general well-being. We are excited to support the Women’s Independence in the Backcountry River Trip for its second year and to partner with the NAC for years to come.”

Katie Cook, the National Ability Center’s grants and development manager, said in a statement that last year’s trip was “immensely successful” in “changing many women’s lives and creating lasting change for members of the community with different levels of abilities and backgrounds.”

“Labyrinth Canyon will provide a serene, peaceful experience for participants,” she said. “This unique rafting experience, especially this particular portion of the Green River, is made possible due to the amount of snow the area received this past winter season.”

Badain discovered the National Ability Center nearly four years ago.

“I was spending a lot of time at home, and I wanted to get out and do things,” she said. “I did some research online about adaptive recreation, and I came across the National Ability Center.”

Badain had planned to go on a different type of adventure with the NAC, but missed the registration deadline.

“That’s when they told me about a rafting trip,” she said. “I’d never been rafting, and I was like, ‘Why not?’ So I went, and loved it. And I keep going back.”

The rafting trip also included five days of camping, which Badain had never done either.

“I live in New York, so I didn’t have opportunities to be in nature like that,” she said. “So it was really great going camping as well.”

These rafting trips help Badain, who has autism, to make friends with others.

“Sometimes my autism can make it hard for me to connect with other people, and that can be very isolating,” she said. “So trips like these help me find a community and be part of something.”

Badain likes the people who participate in the trips as well as the river guides and NAC program directors.

“I felt very comfortable around them and being myself, and the trips are also a great opportunity for me to be around other women,” she said. “I didn’t have worry about not being accepted for who I am. When there were moments when I felt anxious, the guides were very supportive.”

The NAC sends out a packing list and itinerary to help Badain prepare for the rafting trips.

“I pack light, because they have tents and sleeping bags and mats available if you don’t have them.” she said. “Yesterday I spent some time buying sunscreen.”

Since her first river trip. Badain has also participated in other NAC programs.

“After that first trip, I needed more,” she said with a laugh. “So I looked to see what else I could do.”
One of those adventures was a family camp.

“I went by myself, but all the other (participants) welcomed me into their families,” she said. “I also did an adult camp for people with developmental disabilities.”

Last autumn, one of the program directors invited Badain to the National Ability Center’s Halloween party.

“I also did some skiing,” she said. “It was my first time, so it was a little scary. But I had a lot of fun. It was an opportunity to get out of my day-to-day life and get to know people while out in nature.”

Since 1985, the National Ability Center has served individuals and their families in all 50 states and more than 30 countries across the globe. And it provides programming for more than 4,200 individuals annually.

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