Elizabeth Kimball flicks on the lights and powers up a large heating unit in the high-ceiling garage at the Wasatch Adaptive Sports offices in Murray. She mentions that they recently took over the garage unit next door, a testament to the growth of the organization. Since 1977, Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS) has been helping students achieve their goals in recreation. As Executive Director, Kimball has helped expand the organization into the force for good that it is today.

Salt of the Earth: The People & Places of Salt Lake

When Peter Mandler founded WAS forty-five years ago, his vision was to create a program that made outdoor recreation available to athletes of all abilities. Known by many for their winter sports offerings (skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing), the organization operates year-round. “In the summertime, our programs are really exploding,” says Kimball, giving a specific nod to the cycling activities. Proof of that statement is all around us in the garage: large, custom-built shelves house numerous adaptive bikes and other recreation equipment.

Outside the facility, Camille Kramer gears up and shows us how to operate one of the bikes. She is a relative newcomer to WAS; autumn of 2021 was when she got involved with the programs. “It’s just been so amazing and liberating.” She flashes us a big smile as she pedals around the parking area.

WAS can serve many students thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers. They are a 501c3 nonprofit organization and require no initial fee. When a student decides to commit to a program, they can then attempt to qualify for full or partial scholarships. You will find athletes of all ages and background in the various programs, from children and adults to veterans and out-of-town volunteers who come back year after year. The organization is expanding with every passing season.

Phil Yorgason has been skiing with WAS since 1992-93. “I’m just seeing that we are able to help so many more people than before.” Yorgason also partakes in the biking program during the summer months. As the number of volunteers grows, so does the amount of students and scholarships. Potential roles include instructors, administrators, and assistants for areas such as video, photo, and events. “I can see how good it is for the volunteers,” Yorgason says. With thirty years of participation under his belt, it would be hard to argue with his assessment.

If you want to be a part of the growing team, get started by visiting the “Volunteer” section of their website.

If you are an adaptive athlete planning a visit to Salt Lake, WAS has you covered when it comes to gear. They offer a short-term rental program of selected adaptive bikes, skis and other equipment. The availability is subject to the needs of the program, and if you are renting skis, it is preferable that you participate in a lesson before venturing out on your own.

More information and an inquiry form can be found on the WAS website. This is just one of the ways the organization is expanding their ability to serve as many people as possible.

Back in the garage, Kimball eloquently describes what this organization offers all those who are a part of it: “It’s about that sensation of movement and being outside of disability and stepping into a different realm of potential.” Thanks to outstanding leadership, an army of volunteers and donors, and an ever-expanding group of students, the potential for this Salt Lake original seems unlimited.

Thank you to Elizabeth for keeping such an incredible program going, and thanks to Wasatch Adaptive Sports for being a part of our Salt of the Earth series