Julie Tickle has only been in the Flathead Valley for a short time, but she has quickly made an impression.
Tickle was recently named executive director of Whitefish-based DREAM Adaptive Recreation. The nonprofit has been helping people with disabilities get outdoors since 1985.
Growing up, Tickle’s dream was to be an Olympian. She played soccer and softball at Division III Union College in Dunkirk, N.Y. Her college soccer coach said she was a Division I athlete who went to Union so she could play two varsity sports.
There, she led Union to four NCAA tournament berths in softball and three in soccer.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Union and a master’s in sports administration at Canisius College in Buffalo, Tickle made her way west to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
She worked there for five years, coordinating camps and events for athletes working to become Olympians.
But it was also where she began her involvement in working for U.S. Paralympics. Highlights of her tenure included supporting the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
It was an epiphany of sorts for Tickle.
“I really respected how hard para-Olympians worked to achieve their goals,” Tickle said. “Seeing them rise above challenges to achieve their goals is very inspiring.
“Helping people get outside, making new friends, it really builds confidence and that translates into all parts of life.”
Tickle knew then she wanted to help others chase their dreams.
“I knew that someday I wanted to run an adaptive sports program,” she said.
Colorado Springs was also where Tickle met her husband, Sam. He was a former helicopter pilot who served his country in the U.S. Navy.
He then became involved with the Semper Fi Fund and working with disabled veterans at the training center.
Tickle’s time in Colorado developed her love for living in the mountains. She got into more extreme sports, such as snowboarding and mountain biking.
Then, the couple moved to Southern California for Sam’s work with the Semper Fi Fund. But after a few years, mountain life beckoned and they moved to Whitefish in December 2016, living in an RV park before deciding to settle here.
Tickle is looking forward to building Dream Adaptive’s reach.
“We have a great volunteer force, more than 150 people, but I think we’ve only scratched the surface for what can be done,” Tickle said.
She is working to stabilize its funding and she is planning on reaching out to local groups that are involved with disabled people.
“I feel really blessed and really lucky,” Tickle said. “It’s happened much faster than I thought it would.
“I can pour myself into this,” she said. “This is a special community and we really feel very welcome here.”
For more information about Dream Adaptive, go to dreamadaptive.org.
Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.