Beyond Boundaries RVA
The outdoors provides benefits and teachings that can only come from first hand experiences, but accessibility to adventure is something that doesn't come easily (or at all) to everyone. Richmond is fortunate to have the non-profit organization Beyond Boundaries that specializes in guiding participants with disabilities, veterans, at risk youth, and recovery programs on outdoor adventures.
Amazing, right!? This is why Home on the James is super excited to share our interview with Shep Roeper, Director and Co-Founder of Beyond Boundaries. He gives us insight to this organization, its impact on the community, and the importance of your support with the Double Your Donation Challenge to reach $10,000 by the end of March. (If the $10,000 goal is met, an anonymous donor will match, totaling $20,000 to help get hundreds of participants out on adventures!)
We hope you enjoy this interview and can support in any way you can.
'Adventure Is For Everyone.’ I love this. It is inspiring and hopeful, certainly a statement that we should all support. Shep, what molded the creation and vision of Beyond Boundaries and how did this organization get started?
It all started years ago at Radford University. Kyle, my friend and co-founder, and I studied outdoor and therapeutic recreation. After college, we moved out to California and worked for a NPO called Environmental Traveling Companions. They really were one of the first groups to work with people with disabilities in the outdoor adventure world, staring back in the 70s. We loved what they did and how they did it and when we moved back to Richmond we wanted to volunteer with something like that. After looking around we realized there was nothing like it in Richmond, so in 2014, we started Beyond Boundaries.
The geography and terrain of Richmond at the Fall Line of the James River is very unique and offers an abundance of options for outdoor recreation. How does the Falls of the James play into Beyond Boundaries' programs?
This is so true! I tell people all of the time that we are so lucky to have such an awesome River right here in our backyard. One of the only natural class 4 rivers where we can go white water rafting in the morning and be at home to have a beer, or coffee, on your couch by noon! This is the reason why we have a white water rafting program. It also allows us to kayak and catfish. We enjoy looking at this awesome river when we do our hiking program and while climbing at Manchester Wall.
The mission of Beyond Boundaries is inspiring on so many levels and every adventure delivers an uplifting moment for our community. Are there any moments that stand out for you and your Team?
We love each trip we do, and for many reasons, they are all very different. They might be the same adventure (rafting, climbing, fishing) but we have a different group and a different set of staff/volunteers, and it's the mixture of those two things that create the tone of the trip and the memories. I will say that our very first program, a white water rafting trip, will always hold a special place in my heart.
Volunteers are a big part of developing and producing the programs you offer. What is the importance of the volunteers with Beyond Boundaries and how does one get involved with this life changing organization?
This is so true. We couldn't do what we do without our awesome volunteers. Volunteers help us transfer someone from a wheelchair to a raft. They help put worms on hooks and take off fish. They buddy up with someone on a hike and become friends. I think most importantly they learn about the participants on a personal level and get the chance to see them for their abilities, rather than their disabilities. Our program is about getting people outside and having these adventurous opportunities, but it is also about building our community stronger by being more inclusive. On our website homepage, we have a button that says Volunteer. Just hit that button and we will keep you up to speed with programs and opportunities.
Currently, you are raising money for the ‘Double Your Donation Challenge’ in order to match a grant for $10,000 by the end of March. Tell us about this challenge, what the money will go towards, and how can people donate (or get involved) to support the campaign?
This Match Challenge is huge for us. We are not a large organization, so this amount will go a long way. Funds from this challenge will allow us to work with hundreds of participants. We are seeing a record number of groups/participants reaching out wanting to program with us this year and by hitting this goal, we can work with everyone. Due to the fact that we slammed the breaks on in-person programming from March - July of last year, people are itching to get back outside with us, and we couldn't be happier! We have an anonymous donor that will match $10,000 if we can raise $10,000 in the month of March. That means for every dollar you donate, it counts as two!
You can donate on our website under the tab Double Your Donation Challenge.
What is next for Beyond Boundaries? Do you have any new offerings in development or locations to take the organization?
Currently we offer white water rafting, rock climbing, fishing, kayaking, hiking, and pontoon cruises. For now, this keeps us very busy for most months of the year. All of our programming is outside, but we take climbing indoors during the colder months. Our most recent addition is our Disability Etiquette Training. We have developed this training and tailored it to the outdoor industry. From our experience, we have noticed many people feel uncomfortable around someone with a disability. For fear of saying the wrong thing and offending someone, they tend to avoid them altogether, only making them feel more excluded. We need to change this! Our training is a conversation based program where we discuss better ways to make your program more inclusive for people with disabilities. We talk about appropriate language to use and teach communication tools to help make everyone feel comfortable and included. We offer this to our volunteers every year, and will continue to do that, but this year we have started offering it to camps, outfitters, university outdoor programs, and outdoor retailers. You can find out more here.