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Press Release

Colorado Adventure Team Challenge brings Together Disabled and Able-Bodied Athletes

By Richard Rhinehart

Eagle, Colorado, September 14, 2015 – Disabled and able-bodied athletes from across the United States are participating in this week’s inclusive Adventure Team Challenge Colorado from national non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Teams work together at the Adventure Team Challenge Colorado.

Held at the rustic Rancho del Rio resort in the rugged Gore Mountains northeast of Eagle, the Challenge is unique in adventure sports. Each participating team of five athletes includes two athletes with disabilities, one athlete being a wheelchair user. This combination of able-bodied and disabled athletes working together encourages teamwork and cooperation to overcome physical and technical challenges during the three-stage outdoor event.

“The Adventure Team Challenge is a truly unique event,” said World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson. “It is the embodiment of a team event. Each member of every team must work together to accomplish the goal. Through two long days of orienteering, mountain biking, hiking, ropes and water events, the teams are challenged at all phases. Every person who participates in this event walks away with a new perspective.”

Participants in the Challenge raft the Colorado River, ride off-road bicycles on rocky, steep trails, climb granite cliffs and use orienteering to find each checkpoint along the course. Teams missing a checkpoint are assigned penalties by the event organizers, Billy and Helene Mattison of Vail, who compile overall times for each team. At the end of the weekend, the team that completes the course in the shortest time overall and does not miss any checkpoints, will be recognized as this year’s champion.

Teams on the Colorado River.

Athletes in the Challenge include military veterans and civilians, many of whom are active in outdoor sports, but who have not previously competed in a team adventure. Disabilities for athletes range from spinal cord injuries that have resulted in full to partial paralysis, amputations, Post-Traumatic Stress and brain injuries.

Although many of the athletes are from Colorado, others are traveling from states from coast to coast. Participating athletes will arrive from California, Oregon, Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, New York, Missouri, Virginia, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Teams consist of men and women, ranging in age from 24 to 57, who will camp under the stars at the resort, share meals and work together to successfully complete the Challenge.

Since the first Adventure Team Challenge in 2007, each participating team has completed all stages. Challenges have been held at Rancho del Rio in the Gore Mountains, along the Arkansas River near Leadville, and near the Colorado/Utah state border west of Grand Junction.

Team mebers work on a bike in 2014.

Participating adaptive athletes include Jamey Stogsdill of Oregon, who was the first woman to mon-ski the Big Couloir at Montana’s Big Sky Resort in 2014; Army Staff Sergeant Ian Newland, who served two deployments in Iraq and was wounded in action; Massachusetts cyclist Gina Utegg, who was in a serious automobile accident in 2001 that left her with a variety of injuries and ended her corporate career; and Estes Park athlete Dan Marshall, who survived a paralyzing aircraft crash in 2002 and is returning for his second Challenge.

Navy veteran and stand-up comedian PJ Walsh, a recent participant in NBC Television’s American Ninja Warrior competition, will be joining the Marines Team at the competition. As a veteran, Walsh feels he has a duty of honoring servicemen and women who fight for their country. His participation will help honor these veterans, as well as bring attention to the remarkable skills and dedication of disabled and able-bodied veterans.

Team Endless Abilities, who traveled across the United States in the spring of 2012 searching for adaptive sports for athletes with disabilities and filmed a feature documentary film in the process, will be joining together to undertake the Challenge.

The 2015 Adventure Team Challenge Colorado from World T.E.A.M. Sports is supported through sponsors and partners including American Portfolios Financial Services, Audubon Orthotic & Prosthetic Services, Deven’s Recycling, Pearl Meyer & Partners, Skanska USA, TimeCapital and Timberline Sports. Additional financial support is provided by Jim Noland, George Puskar and James Benson.

Downhill off-road bicycling.

THE UNEXPECTED

I’m astonished how the promises I make to myself keep leading me to living a more fulfilling life. When I look back at the trajectory of my life, any so-called “normal” path never seemed to fit. I’d often come across the “where do you see yourself in 5 years” question. I don’t really like this question because for me it brings in an element of “I want,” which always seemed to bring about expectation, and when those visions were achieved, most of the time they came with a sense of entitlement.  Entitlement and expectation kill surprise. The surprise and just flat out amazement of the unexpected places and moments life has taken me to have crushed every visualized achievement I’ve ever had.

I really try to never miss smelling a rose. I learned as a young man a very long time ago that life is a gift, the one thing we all share… I can go on about this forever. For now, I’ll say that taking the time to pause and look around has often lead to me taking the very 1st step down a path leading to something completely not what I expected and beyond where I ever could have seen myself.

Just a few examples from my own time on this round planet (or flat depending on what year you are reading this):

-With a killer mullet, Camel light stained fingers & a bitchin 1979 Z-28 Camaro (you’re welcome ladies), I barely graduated high school. The next day I joined the Navy. As a result, 5 years later, my hands were in the mouth of The President of The United States and I was advising him to floss and use a fluoride rinse. He never listened… old puffy gums Willy.

-I moved from the NYC comedy scene to LA because I found myself hanging out with my old hometown New York friends on weekends instead of grinding it out in comedy venues. My move to the west allowed me to make friends in comedy and we went to clubs nightly for a very long time together. 5 years after that move, this born and bread New Yorker was living on a tour bus playing for 10 – 15,000 people nightly and opening for the biggest comedian in the country who happens to be a straight up ReeeeeeD…NECK!

-When I made the move back to NYC to immerse myself into the stand up scene, I actually took a break from comedy and went to a full time theatre school. 5 years later, I was doing a theatrical show (seriously WTF? Remember cigarettes, camaro, mullet?) recounting my life and trying to shed light on the importance of our service members.

-Back in LA again and after all the years in comedy clubs, acting classes & theatrical performances, I find American Ninja Warrior to be the coolest thing I’ve ever done…and now it has opened up a new and unexpected path. Though maybe I should start expecting the unexpected!

I guess my point here is that I made a vow to myself to work within my values. The one big question I ask myself often is, “At the end of my days, what will I look back on?” The TV spots, line in a movie, dream venues… all awesome, don’t get me wrong… but they pale in comparison to the White House, years traveling with a hillbilly, sharing my story on stage, and getting hit in the face by a log on National Television while showing the world what matters to me. I found the things that matter to me most while traveling down an off-the-beaten-track journey and when I look back, those are what shaped me.

I’m far from finished. I actually think I’m just getting started…

With that said, I’m BEYOND EXCITED to finally share this next venture: I’ve been asked to be part of a team (all Marines) in ADVENTURE TEAM CHALLENGE: September 18-20, 2015. This is pretty awesome and my mind was completely blown! Seriously read on…

The Adventure Team Challenge brings together disabled and able-bodied athletes for three days of spirited team competition. Presented by Pearl Meyer and directed by World T.E.A.M. Sports, in Colorado’s rugged and wild Gore Range north of Eagle. It inspires and challenges athletes of all abilities. With each team of five including two athletes with disabilities, one being a wheelchair user, the Challenge provides an opportunity for competitors to work together toward shared goals and rewards.

I’ve made some adjustments to how I look at life and they have me going “outside the box” of sorts and I again have been offered something exciting and in ways, nerve racking. My only regret would be not doing it!

Challenge accepted!

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