Matt Feeney – Freedom Found

On a perfect day, with perfect conditions,
when body and mind are aligned, it’s almost spiritual.
All the things that usually hold me down: worries, fears, pain, fatigue; they all
disappear. I simply connect. Throughout my youth I sought this connection. On snow,
on rocky trails, on the water, under the water, and through the air. While sports
was a big part of my life, there was always something about diving that
intrigued me. Then one day, from a high cliff, I dove and slightly over-rotated
on the entry. Yet the force at that speed was enough to dislodge a vertebrae and
damaged my spinal cord. I didn’t quite realize it at the time, but that moment would
change the course of my life. I remember sitting in my office six months later,
looking around and thinking, “Is this it?” Skiing was always a big part of my life,
so it made sense to start there. For months my body pounded the hard packed
snow. I never thought in a million years I would be even close to the skier I
once was. When I tried to ski a steep run with my friends they would often have to
wait on me. But a few years later on that same hill, I found myself waiting on them.
I remember that vividly. This freedom was so powerful.
It started me on a different career path as a professional ski instructor. Years
later, I would embrace other sports: downhill mountain biking, water skiing,
wakeboarding, hand cycling, and even scuba diving. I had a new mission in my life: to
share this newly found freedom to enhance the lives of others who face
similar challenges. But I soon discovered that other people in wheelchairs didn’t
always have the same experience. Some knew what sport they wanted to do but
couldn’t find a facility with an adaptive version. Others just didn’t know
where to start to find the sport they were passionate about. So I started
talking with a friend of mine who was an amputee. We decided there was something
we could do to help. We made the decision to start a progressive year-round
adaptive sports program that had no limits. We called it Adaptive Adventures. The initial philosophy was to not only
provide information about adaptive sports opportunities, but to actually
bring people from around the country to different mountain venues to participate
in these activities. To create an environment of learning, sharing, and
socialization. Throughout the years I’ve seen the impact of participation in
sports has for people that may have thought sports was not an option. The
confidence it brings is life-changing. Here’s the thing: in my daily life there
are curbs, there are stairs, but when I’m on the slopes or under water, these
physical barriers go away. I always tell people: it’s still there. That perfect day,
those perfect conditions. You can still find your freedom.

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