Expansion the stuff of DREAMs

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Cheri DuBeau maneuvers a sit-ski containing volunteer Jeff Carlson on Dec. 22 at Whitefish Mountain Resort during a training session for DREAM Adaptive Recreation. DuBeau is the new executive director of the organization.

Cheri DuBeau has dreams for expanding recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

DuBeau is the new executive director for Disabled Recreation Environmental Access Movement (DREAM) Adaptive Recreation.

 She replaced Bruce Gibson, who “started out as a volunteer and served DREAM Adaptive well. Under his leadership we saw DREAM Adaptive grow,” said Rosemary Gilbert, who is serving her sixth year on the DREAM board.

DuBeau was hired in October after serving on the board for a couple of months. She joined DREAM from her former position as program director of Eagle Mount Adaptive Recreation in Billings.

Raised by a father who was a paraplegic, DuBeau saw limitations he faced and surpassed by being active and serving on the Eagle Mount Adaptive Recreation board.  

“We want to help people overcome obstacles and give opportunities everybody should be able to enjoy in their life,” DuBeau said.

DREAM Adaptive — in its 27th year — provides specialized equipment, volunteer instructors and activities free of charge for children and adults with disabilities, whether cognitive or physical.

Initially, skiing was the only sport offered, but now DREAM Adaptive Recreation offers summer water sports such as tubing, water-skiing and kayaking.

DuBeau’s goal is to expand recreational offerings to include golfing, bicycling, hiking and rock climbing.  

“We live in the beauty of Northwest Montana and we want to provide access to it year-round,” DuBeau said.

“We are wanting to grow the dream,” Gilbert said. “We want to know what participants want to do, and we want to serve the public,”

 Skiing remains a high-demand sport, Gilbert said, with an annual seven-week ski school at Whitefish Mountain Resort scheduled to begin Saturday.

There are more than 100 volunteers this winter — from board members to instructors. Gilbert said the number of volunteers who received free ski instructor training has risen from previous years.

Volunteers to teach different sports always are needed, but DuBeau said there are other ways to help such as organizing fundraisers, serving on the board or donating money.

DREAM is kept alive through donations and grants. Purchasing adaptive equipment can be costly. To offer a future sport such as golf means purchasing adaptive golf carts ranging from $6,000 and up.

A new winter sit-ski recently was purchased using a $4,000 Plum Creek grant. DuBeau said the sit-ski would accommodate taller adults weighing up to 230 pounds.

The program has five operational winter sit-skis and one or two water sit-skis.

“The sit-skis we have now, a lot of them are showing fatigue, and we’ll replace them one at a time,” DuBeau said.

The organization’s largest fundraiser — DREAM’N the Night Away Dinner, Dance and Auction — is at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kalispell. Tickets cost $50 and are available for purchase at Snappy Sport Senter in Evergreen.

For more information, visit www.dreamadaptive.org or call 862-1817.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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