Several months ago, I discovered an organization called No Barriers, whose tagline has now become my mantra and part of my email signature –
"What's within you is stronger than what’s in your way."
No Barriers is based on the idea that, for people with all sorts of abilities, participating in and conquering adventure sports increases self-efficacy and self-esteem. By offering over 50 adaptive adventure sports for people with disabilities, they empower people to break through their barriers, find their inner purpose, and contribute their very best to this world.
No Barriers' biggest event each year is called The Summit. They invite people with disabilities to come to a place of beauty and adventure. The locale changes each year, but this year it's in Lake Tahoe, California.
On their website, The Summit is described and promoted as follows:
"At the 4-day No Barriers Summit, you’ll be embraced by a community that knows what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way. There will be speakers who ignite your passion, innovations that push your perceptions, and activities that shatter barriers...with a supportive community to help you along the way.
As many know, I have been trying to build a business of public and motivational speaking. So, I decided to 'shoot for the moon' and apply to be one of their speakers.
With high hopes, I sent an email to a mutual friend to introduce myself, as well as send a link to my website and speaking samples. Unfortunately, the event planner wrote back with the news that they had already lined up the speakers for this year's Summit.
However, this event planner was incredibly helpful with constructive ideas for improving my skills, target audiences, industry contacts, and promotional materials. She also said that I should definitely attend the event, even bring my whole family! She just knew we would love it and be forever changed by it.
"Ha! Ha!" I thought. "Like we could ever afford for me to go, let alone bring my whole family." In what I thought was a pretty snarky and sarcastic tone, I replied to her email with the question,
"Do you have scholarships for stay-at-home moms from suburbia, North Carolina?"
"Yes;" she wrote, "actually, we do!" And she included a link to the application.
"What?!?!... Seriously?!?! I was really sort of kidding!" I thought.
But, of course, I applied. Maintaining my "shoot for the moon" idea, I applied for a full, all-expenses paid, (even all the adventure sports!), trip for my entire family of seven.
It was a pretty extensive application process - reference letters from friends, colleagues, and doctors; essays, photographs, pay stubs (the scholarships are need-based in addition to the other qualifying factors), and a link to my web site and blog. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, and I knew that getting the full scholarship was a long shot.
Regardless of my low chances, I applied. And the waiting game was on.
But then I had a lengthy phone conversation with the director of development; and she explained that there are actually some extremely generous donors who love to sponsor whole families! I couldn't imagine this level of generosity; but I sure was moved by it.
The sweet, kind, development director told me a story of the first time she attended the event. She herself is blind. And she had grown accustomed to vacations with her own family where she would sit on the beach and wave goodbye to her family as they would leave for a nice long walk (or any of the big vacation activities, for that matter). She had grown acccustomed to waiting around while everyone else got to participate. She explained how, on the No Barriers trip; for the first time, she was the one participating while her kids sat back with eyes wide open at seeing her soar over all the barriers that had previously stood in her way.
After talking to her, I couldn't help but feel encouraged. And empowered. And hopeful.
"If we get to go," I thought, "it will be the epic family adventure. Four of my kids have never even been on an airplane before, let alone gotten to see or do things like skiing, mountain biking, white water rafting, or kayaking. In Lake Tahoe of all places!!!"
And so I waited. And dreamed. And waited. And waited some more.
But, eventually, I was starting to look for the thin envelope in the mail - the one with the letter that would thank me for applying, tell me there were a record number of qualified applicants this year, and encourage me to apply again next year.
But then, it happened. I got the phone call. That call I'd been waiting for!
We won!!! We get to go!!!
I'm a bit embarrassed by my reaction. I must have sounded like a schoolgirl... But here's what I said:
"I mean, like, for real, for real?"
She must have laughed out loud.
But, it's FOR REAL!
** Post Script: We leave tomorrow. It's a good thing that excitement and anticipation produce adrenaline and energy. Because I'll be up all night packing for myself and five kids! Check back here for details of my trip. Or just follow my husband on Facebook or Instagram...