By Mariana Vaca
Not only does being outdoors promote physical well-being, but it can also offer us a space to reflect and cleanse our minds.
One of the organizations whose aim is to protect and promote nature is Lake Forest Open Lands (LFOLA), an independently funded non-profit that provides educational opportunities. Since 1967, it has preserved and stewarded some of the highest quality natural landscapes in our community.
Julia Lunn of Lake Forest Open Lands, Gary Stott of Access Ability Wisconsin and Susan Lenz of Lake Forest Open Lands gather in and around the popular wheelchair. Last year, Lake Forest Open Lands partnered with Access Ability Wisconsin to “break down barriers around nature,” according to Senior Vice President of Community Conservation Susan Lenz. Together, their goal is to aid individuals with mobility challenges. “Nature helps us with our emotional and mental state, which everyone deserves to experience,” Lenz said.
Lake Forest Open Lands Association’s partnership with Access Ability Wisconsin has allowed the first host site for an all-terrain outdoor wheelchair to be established in Illinois. Lenz is mostly concerned about exposure to those with various mobility challenges and hopes to “get the word out that they have a resource they can turn to.”
Last fall, there were a few elderly people who attended who also had caregivers assist them. Lenz was able to spend time with the individuals that visited and excitedly reported that “customers felt safe and happy.” Now that spring has arrived, Lenz is excited to share and promote the platform, hoping that “everyone can experience the happiness and excitement to be part of nature.” While the chair is available for reservations throughout the entire year, Access Ability Wisconsin and LFOLA will be hosting an event on Veterans Day at Mellody Farm Nature Preserve. where they will be provided with plentiful of wheelchairs to commemorate the veterans in the community. Kristen Livesay is appreciative that three generations of her family can now gather outdoors. “We are so happy to have a new opportunity to get together,” she said. “Mobility challenges make it hard to get outside, and this amazing all-terrain wheelchair now provides the chance for our family to enjoy the outdoors together.”
The outdoor wheelchair is available ($50 refundable deposit) for reservation and use at any of LFOLA’s properties or can be hauled offsite with the provided trailer. To reserve a chair and to find out more information about LFOLA’s mission, click here.