I was an active 24-year-old graduate student studying the intersection between nature and psychology when tragedy struck. I first had the idea for the Aimee Copeland Foundation while lying in a hospital bed. My entire left leg, right foot and both hands had just been removed. I wondered how I could practice eco-therapy – or even how I could take a walk in the woods in my current state. But I knew I had to find a way.
As I laid in that hospital bed watching daytime TV, surrounded by others doing the same, I knew we were the people who need eco-therapy the most. Cut off from the natural world by inaccessible environments, people with disabilities are extremely vulnerable to physical and psychological issues that come along with being indoors and sedentary. It was then that I vowed to build a bridge between nature and accessibility.
That bridge is the Aimee Copeland Foundation – a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a fully-accessible nature preserve that also offers therapeutic counseling and fitness classes. The center will provide opportunities for mental, physical, and spiritual growth to people of all ages and abilities. And, together with our donors, we hope to subsidize these services for our visitors with disabilities.
During my recovery, I became aware of the unique perspective that I gained. I had experienced what it was like to be an average, adventure-loving person, and now I know fully the challenges of being an amputee and a wheelchair user. The way I see it, possessing this dual perspective and has truly been a blessing for my personal growth, and now, for others.
What started as an idea in a hospital bed has grown by leaps and bounds. And it’s no longer my idea – it’s ours. We welcome your thoughts on additional services we can provide or experiences that our community may be missing. Your time and support will help empower people with disabilities to build fulfilling and joyful lives. We are all different in one way or another, and we all have unique struggles – but together we can make a difference!