Good Sam Gives Back for National Therapeutic Recreation Week


National Therapeutic Recreation Week is observed every July. This month highlights the importance of engaging in activities that aid in the recovery and healing of people with various forms of disabilities.

Promoting the outdoor lifestyle is one of the backbones of Good Sam, which is why we were so excited to put on a special event to live out this awesome awareness week. We hosted a day in the trees with obstacle courses, food, snacks, and outdoor giveaways for the medically fragile community.

This week also holds a sweet spot in our (Tiffany and Caleb) hearts because I (Caleb) was born with a genetic condition known as Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is an inherited life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. Cystic fibrosis affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive juices. It causes these fluids to become thick and sticky which plug up tubes, ducts, and passageways and create a breathing ground for bacteria and virus infections.

While my overall health is closely managed and maintained by pharmaceuticals, I have found being outdoors as one of the most healing forms of therapy for my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I know millions of other patients in the Rare Disease World can vouch for that. Did you know there are over 7,000 rare diseases? 25 – 30 million individuals are touched by a rare disease in America.

As a CF patient, I am generally not allowed to be around other CF patients. This is because we pose a risk to one another potentially sharing airborne bacteria and viruses that may manifest in our bodies in dangerous and sometimes lethal ways. If I were to encounter another CF individual, knowingly, I mask up, stay six feet or further, no physical touching, and most importantly meet out in the open air. (disclaimer: this is not to be taken as medical advice).

With that being said, we were super pumped to find an event space on the outskirts of Portland in a forest setting with tons of rooms to separate and sprawl. Tree 2 Tree is an adventure park that has self-guided aerial obstacle courses with integrated ziplines. While adventuring is the theme of the park, everyone leaves feeling overjoyed with a sense of pride learning to face fears, work as a teammate, and trust their intuition. Prior to the event, we connected with Tree2Tree staff and guides to go over safety instructions, sanitization protocols, and game plans for keeping pairs and groups separated from one another. While fun is a priority, safety takes first seat.

We had 30 participants join us that day. CF patients and other individuals touched by chronic illness or disabilities were accompanied by a caregiver or volunteer. It was really awesome to see different communities crossover and find support, laughter, and commonality between their differences.

“It was such a fun day! One of the best memories today was helping my friend, Malek, cross one of the bridges. He is scared of heights,” a participant, Christopher, shared.

“I didn’t go up in the trees. But meeting other family members and caretakers was such a gift to me. I love that I was able to bond instantly with strangers. Some things you just don’t need to explain and only certain people can understand. I felt heard and affirmed,”
Mother of a Participant

To not only be around people again, socially distant, but others like me (Caleb), had me choked up. I forgot how good it feels to be validated by others who get my story and every day. We talked about what treatments we are on, shared stories, and gave advice on how to manage certain medical needs, all while suspended high up in the trees breathing in fresh clean air.

The participants went up after a catered lunch and adventures for over three hours. After winding down, they all left with huge smiles, cheer, and a hiking backpack full of swag (first aid kits, beanies, hiking socks, snacks, water bottles)  to encourage more outdoor trips beyond National Therapeutic Recreation Week.