Jamie McCulloch can break down his life defining passion in a span of three wide-ranging emotions. While teaching his sister with autism to downhill ski he encouraged her through feelings of fear, coached her to the point where she began to grasp the concept, and celebrated with her after bearing witness to the biggest beaming smile he’d ever seen after her first successful ski run.
From that moment, McCulloch knew he wanted to recreate moments like this as much as he could. As the co-founder and executive director of Rocky Mountain Adaptive Sports Centre, he now gives his all to help kids and adults with physical, intellectual, cognitive, or developmental impairments gain access to outdoor mountain sports and recreational activities.
“I witness so much determination each and every day. There is fear and trepidation in the early going, but it gets replaced quickly. From then on it’s all smiles,” says Jamie, who has successfully combined his experiences as a ski instructor and care worker for a commitment that goes well beyond being just a career.
Having setup adaptive sports programs in the past, as a ski instructor for Sunshine Village and in off-seasons for Disabled Snowsports New Zealand, McCulloch used his entrepreneurial spirit to create a not-for-profit organization with local Canmore residents Ian Hipkins and Eric McFadden six years ago through a series of private partnerships, government grants, and a highly supportive board of directors.
Today, they offer 20 different programs year round with over 2,000 outdoor experiences for ages ranging from three to 87. Programs include skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, horse riding, swimming, and much more. The support from the community is also increasing at an amazing rate; Jamie and his team helped coordinate over 400 volunteer days in the last 12 months alone.
“I used to shy away from things that I thought I couldn’t do. Through these programs, the biggest learning I have received is that there is no such thing as ‘can’t’. It’s just a ‘can’ that hasn’t happened yet,” he says.
McCulloch can lay claim to seeing many benefits of participation in sport and recreation. Beyond equality and inclusion, he’s seen increased independence, self-esteem, strength, coordination, mobility, health, and general wellbeing.
“It makes it easy to get up each morning knowing that you are sharing in making that difference. The first experience I had teaching my sister to ski now gets repeated every day.”