"No Child Left Inside" · Accessibility · Adaptive Adventure · Adaptive Parenting (an adventure itself) · Conversations with Kids · Education · Family life · Growing Up New Hampshire · Through the Power of Sport

Rolling into August and Community Service

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on August 12, 2021

First published on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog…

Downhill mountain biking is a sport our family loves during the summer at Loon Mountain Resort. It is also the first sport Geoff found competitively again following his spinal cord injury back in 1995. In fact, he traded his car for this adaptive downhiller seen here. Last year, he broke the frame, on the bike, not his body thankfully, on the very last run of the very last day of the downhill season on wheels before the skis came out. Luckily, a fellow ski instructor and downhill mountain biker had a boyfriend who was also an incredible welder. So, he was able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, so to speak. Last weekend, a bolt came out, which was sort of essential, but again, it was on his last run, and no one had to fetch him with an ATV. Three trips to our local Aubuchon later, he was able to fix what he needed to run another day. He literally has to fix something or tighten something after every damn run it feels like, which is why it is kind of a frustrating family sport in my mind.

But, on a sunny Friday afternoon, when he is whipping through the dappled downhill trails, over berms and bridges, through mud or loose gravel, he is a pretty happy dad to share these experiences with his family. Our son usually does not complain when Geoff asks for his help to work on his bike until he recently learned the term “community service.” Now, Geoff has been part of volunteer-driven work experiences our entire relationship, certainly years longer than our son has been alive. I coach youth sports and participate on various recreational boards just as adults modeled for me while growing up– not because it looks good on one’s resume, but because there is work that needs to be done. Many hands make light work, blah, blah, blah, and excepting those two years coaching T-ball, I would not do one thing differently.

So, it was an enormous surprise to us as parents when our kid came home from one afternoon at adventure camp IRATE that he was expected to do some community service before going swimming at the lake. “Mom, you mean to tell me that you are paying these people perfectly good money to make me perform community service? I thought only kids who broke the law had to do that?” And as much of parenting is trying desperately not to laugh aloud or say the wrong thing during a teachable moment, I pull myself together and take a few breaths.

“Honey, every time you help your dad load the barge with all of the lifejackets and water skis for Eastern Adaptive Sports, you are building your hours of community service. You are helping an organization that helps people with all sorts of different disabilities enjoy outdoor recreation activities. You do that without being paid. You are a volunteer. You already do community service, so don’t be so upset about giving some of your time at camp to spread mulch, vacuum recreation vans or build better pathways for the elderly. This is work you ought to be proud of,” I explain gently.

He takes it all in and is thoughtful for a moment. Then I realized my mistake.

“So, you mean to tell me my whole life has basically been community service? You and Dad had us to be volunteers?”

“No, Son, those times you help your dad with his bike or get your dad’s wheelchair out of the car for him or push him through the deep snow in winter— that’s not community service. That is just being part of our family.”

“Oh, OK, I think I see the difference, but I still don’t like the idea of working hard without getting paid.”

I tell him that I cannot wait for him to become a parent one day, but not until he is really old, like 30 and has married the person of his dreams, someone he cannot wait to do hours of community service with for the next 18-25 years.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 11 and 10 respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

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