Eight years ago, Cynthia Noonan was happily living an active life filled with biking, backpacking and yoga. Then, totally out of the blue, she was struck down by transverse myelitis, a rare inflammatory disease that made her immune system attack her own spine.
"In four hours, I went from being fine to being a quadraplegic," she says. "When you're a very active, fit person and suddenly lose that, it's like losing yourself. I was in a very dark place."
Then she discovered the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program – BORP, for short – a wonderful organization in Berkeley that offers an extensive choice of adaptive recreation programs for physically disabled or visually impaired adults and kids.
Among them: team sports like wheelchair basketball, power soccer, goalball and team hockey; more than 80 different adaptive cycles that fit the needs of almost everyone with a disability or vision impairment; adaptive kayaking; fitness classes featuring body strengthening, yoga and relaxation; and excursions throughout the Bay Area including hikes, archery trips and archery.
"It saved my life," she says. "Everything opened up for me. It really did; I'm not being sentimental. Before I came here I felt completely boxed in and limited. But thanks to BORP I was out of my chair and on a bike, outside. What I thought were my limitations didn't have to be. There were opportunities to regain the things I thought I had lost."
She's also found mutual support with the friends she's made at BORP.
"I met people who had been living with disabilities and had accomplished more than I thought I could. It also gives me a chance to mentor others as well as be mentored, and to be a part of something bigger than myself. I never thought it would be possible for me to ride a bike in the hills of Sonoma, but that's what I'll be doing next month."
The event she's referring to is the annual Revolution Ride, BORP's biggest fundraiser of the year, on Sept. 26 at the breathtakingly beautiful Trentadue Winery in Geyserville, featuring five fully supported S.A.G. (supplies and gear) cycling routes with distances from five kilometers to 65 miles, followed by a sumptuous party at the winery.
If you want to register or volunteer, go to borp.org. The registration fee is $50. In addition, adults are asked to raise at least $400, and those under 18 are asked to raise $150. Teams, corporate teams, and individual riders of all abilities are encouraged to join the ride. If you don't want to ride but would still like to join the celebration, that can be done, too, for $100.
As an added inducement, everyone who raises over $750 will receive their choice of a gift card at Amazon or dinner at either the Café at Chez Panisse or Comal.
And if you can't make the party but would like to help anyway, you can donate online at borp.org or send a check (tax-deductible, of course), to BORP, 3075 Adeline St. Suite 200, Berkeley CA 94703.
BORP serves more than 900 children and adults in the Bay Area with a variety of disabilities, including spinal cord injury, cerebral palsey, multiple sclerosis, spina bifeda, stroke, traumatic brain injury, amputations, post polio, limited mobility and visual impairments. I can't think of a worthier cause.