A Community Freedom Chair for the North Quabbin

We have a confession to make: while there are countless beautiful parks to be explored across the country, we're based in Massachusetts and we've got a soft spot for our local trails.

That's why we're thrilled to announce that there is now a "Community Freedom Chair" available in Orange, MA that individuals can use to explore the expansive network of trails in the region. It's all thanks to a local organization called the North Quabbin Trails Association who rallied their community to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, regardless of their mobility level. Over the last few months we've had the privilege of getting to know NQTA, and we witnessed first hand how the community came together to make it happen.

On a drizzly spring day, while hiking Mt. Tom in Western Massachusetts with our friends at the DCR, we were introduced to Bobby Curley and NQTA. NQTA creates, maintains, and maps trails in the region, and Bobby shared his vision to expand outdoor opportunities for individuals with limited mobility. He began working on a four-level rating system for their trails, and searching for all-terrain wheelchairs, which led to our meeting.

Despite the rain, Bobby and his crew launched into action and were soon racing down the trail, with team GRIT chasing right after. After that first ride, Bobby immediately launched into action and began working with his local community to raise the funds required for two Freedom Chairs. They got creative! They held various events to collect donations, organized a raffle, and even held a zumba class. They got support from individuals, as well as community leaders. Even their State Rep., Susannah Whipps Lee, played an active role, stating:

I’m very happy to see the North Quabbin Trails Association has gone above and beyond to share their passion of hiking with people with disabilities. This is a perfect example of how our community excels in inclusion.

On Sunday we joined NQTA and members of the community at Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, MA to celebrate their hard work and to present two Freedom Chairs. In addition to the Community Freedom Chair, which is available for individuals to borrow, a second Freedom Chair was given to Andy Kingsley, a veteran of the Afghan war whose injuries include the loss of a leg. Andy will be working with Bobby to rate trails in their region. 

We were also joined on Sunday by Nate, a member of the community with cerebral palsy who rode with Bobby at our first meeting on that rainy day on the trail. Nate's family had already purchased a Freedom Chair for him and he's been working out with it all summer. Check out his rider spotlight to learn more! 

If you're looking for some beautiful trails to explore in New England, we recommend heading over to the North Quabbin. The Community Freedom Chair is at the Orange Innovation Center at 131 West Main St, Orange, MA. And Mia Haringstad of the Visitors Bureau pointed out that the Freedom Chair availability goes along with the installation of a universal access dock at the Orange Community Boat House, and another soon to be installed in Athol's Allen E. Rich Environmental Park. She added "Our region will offer unique opportunities for people of all abilities to enjoy recreational opportunities on our trails, and on the Millers River."

The community in the North Quabbin is setting the bar pretty high! If your community is interested in developing a similar program, we're happy to help. 

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The GRIT Freedom Chair is the most versatile chair on the market, designed from the ground up to handle any terrain. From trails to grass to snow, the Freedom Chair is built for you to push yourself. Born out of research at MIT, the Freedom Chair's patented easy-push levers reduce shoulder strain and put you in control of your mobility. Ready to hit the trails.  Learn more about the GRIT Freedom Chair at www.gogrit.us