By Brenna Bean

LivAbility Magazine
Campers wearing life jackets smile from a whitewater raft.

“It is crazy to me that just a couple of days ago, none of us knew each other, not even in the slightest; but somehow we’ve all come together on this journey, working together to make this trip amazing.”

Jessica, River Rampage participant

River guides shouted “fire line!”, their calls echoing through the voices of the fifteen teens spanned from the big, blue river rafts to the sandy, picturesque camp on shore. The crew passed dry bags, camping gear and assorted goods to one another like eager carrier ants. From a distance, you could hear their laughter and sense their teamwork. These youth had been together less than a week, yet in no time at all they connected like family.

This campsite bond is one of many benefits that River Rampage has been generating for over 25 years. For six days this past June, 15 teenagers conquered 26 miles of the San Juan River in Southeast Utah. After rafting, camping, and sleeping under the stars, the teens returned home with meaningful life experiences and a new perspective.

River Rampage, an annual river rafting expedition for adolescents with disabilities and at-risk youth, is a program of Daring Adventures. It began as a program with the city of Phoenix in 1991, focusing on acceptance, healthy risk taking, teamwork and cooperation. When adaptive recreation was cut from the city’s budget, a group of passionate volunteers worked to continue the mission of Daring Adventures. It has since become a stand-alone nonprofit organization, but maintains the continued support and partnership of the city.

River rafting is an adventure that can yield excitement and benefits for any teen. Daring Adventures recognizes that recreation, not to mention outdoor adventure recreation, is an opportunity that is not always easily accessible for adolescents with disabilities and at-risk youth. River Rampage seeks to remedy that issue.

A wild horse approaches campers.

With limited outside influences and the tranquility of nature, teens have the opportunity to contemplate their lives, play, learn tolerance and gain self-acceptance. Through peer mentoring, ongoing evaluation and engagement in post-trip activities, River Rampage achieves long-term impacts on participants’ lives.

Daring Adventures seeks to provide long-term mentoring to youth participants to continue the relationships fostered on River Rampage. Like the river continues flowing, the learning and development does not cease when the expedition has ended.

Instead of grouping “like” individuals together, River Rampage engages youth with a variety of differences and strengths alongside each other with the purpose of facilitating both self-acceptance and the empowerment and acceptance of others.

“The first day, these kids were tightly-closed rosebuds. Every day they open a little more, revealing their colors. Together, they are the most beautiful bouquet I’ve ever seen”.
Mary Ann, volunteer Sidekick and Ability360 member

This year’s group included youth with mobility impairments, chronic disease, learning disabilities, and psychiatric and behavioral disabilities alongside teens from refugee families and from low-income environments. The diversity of the group was one of its strengths.

“[This trip has] taught me a lot of new things and I will continue to use these lessons in life. I love how we are all different but have come together and created our own little family.”

-Jasmine, River Rampage Participant

Daring Adventures plans to host two River Rampage trips down the San Juan in June 2017.

Campers sit outside next to a yellow tent.

Daring Adventures offers more than just River Rampage throughout the year; handfuls of additional adventures are available not only for teens but for individuals from various walks of life. The organization’s core programs include hiking, kayaking and cycling; they also offer sled hockey, backpacking, cross country skiing, camping and more.

In August 2017, Daring Adventures plans an exciting 11-day river trip, rafting through the Grand Canyon down the Colorado River. Similar to River Rampage in structure and outcome, this trip, known as Mainstream Expedition, is designed for adults with disabilities. Mainstream Expedition is open nationally, serving interested individuals from across the country.

The mission of Daring Adventures is to be inclusive to all, provide wonderful outdoor experiences and enrich lives through the influence of outdoor recreation. Noting that access to outdoor adventure, challenge, and enjoyment of nature can be a daunting task at times for persons with disabilities, Daring Adventures seeks to break barriers and use the power of the outdoors as a medium to improve the lives of all.

Upcoming Events

Sunset Cycling: second Tuesday of each month beginning in October, 6-8 pm
Saturday Cycling: fourth Saturday of each month beginning in October, 9-11 am
Kayaking: third Saturday of each month beginning in October-December, all day
Phoenix Summit Challenge: November 12th, hikes October 15, 22, 29, November 5
Hiking: first Saturday of the month beginning in December
Winter getaway to Flagstaff: cross-country skiing as weather permits – January 13th, 2017
River Rampage 2017: two trips, dates not yet being released, June/July 2017

A picture of writer Brenna Bean wearing a blue shirt

Brenna Bean

Brenna is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and Program Coordinator for Daring Adventures as well as an on-call recreation therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center. After sustaining an SCI in 2010, Brenna became very passionate about using recreation to foster healthy and happy lives for people with disabilities. Brenna herself is very active with adaptive fitness, sports, and outdoor recreation!