Lessons from the River: Never give up believing in yourself

Sometimes you need a reminder that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Students at the Chattahoochee Nature Center were reminded of this earlier this month when a courageous young woman visited and showed them just what could be possible.

Aimee Copeland is an amazing young woman who garnered national attention a few years ago when a zip lining accident occurred in a river near her friend’s house.  While in the air, the zip line broke and Amy fell down into the river, where she received a deep gash in her leg.

Unfortunately, the water harbored a flesh-eating bacteria which resulted in an amputation of her left leg up to her hip, and another amputation of her right leg below her knee. The doctors also had to eventually amputate both of her hands.

Aimee is now an advocate who wishes to start a foundation for people with disabilities that will use nature and other holistic healing methods to help img_2847-3them live whole and fulfilling, happy and healthy lives.

She came out to paddle with CNC Nov. 7 to learn more about W ilderness Inquiry, Canoemobile, and the Chattahoochee Nature Center!

CNC invited Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile over to educate students about the wonders of the river. This Minnesota-based group travels the country introducing children and the needy to nature. In Canoemobile’s case, it does this through – you guessed it – going on the river.

Between Nov. 1 – 8, CNC hosted several school groups of all ages and throughout the metro region, many of whom had never been in a canoe before.

“We try to get people who don’t have much access to waterways in our areas,” said Cory Dack, Outdoor Leader and Canoemobile Primary Leader. “We act as that connection – bridges between the typical urban city dwellers and nature.”

She said children from inner-city schools need access to nature more than anyone, for their own mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing.

“Being out in nature impacts your overall health,” she said.

The canoes used in Canoemobile are 24-foot-long “Voyageur” canoes, capable of fitting a dozen kids at once, all paddling together. This makes fielding classes of children possible and fun.

And CNC, located right on the Chattahoochee River, is a prime location to launch, with many of the area’s schools already familiar with CNC and its programming.

img_2853Aimee was an incredibly enthusiastic and engaging guest who happily joined the first WI boat group this morning and paddled with a group of school children. A guide used her Therapeutic Recreation background to figure out the best way to create a comfortable paddle for Aimee, using an ace bandage to attach a small orange adaptive paddle to Aimee’s arm. Then Aimee was helped to hop from stool to stool as she climbed into the canoe.

A young 7th grade girl, 13-year-old Zamariah Strozier, was initially incredibly scared to get in a canoe, and said later that she was seriously thinking of not going…. until she saw Aimee get in the canoe.  Zamariah told her teacher that Aimee’s presence inspired her to get in the canoe anyway, even though she was scared. Later, staff led a group debrief in which group members were asked to identify one moment from the day where they were proud of themselves.  Zamariah said that she was proud of herself for “Taking a risk, even though I didn’t want to, and trying a new experience by going out of my comfort zone.”

The Mission of the Chattahoochee Nature Center is to connect people with nature. Learn more at www.chattnaturecenter.org.