History of CRIS
In 2001, the idea for the Community Recreational Initiatives Society was born. The idea was inspired by an individual with Down syndrome. Troy Becker recognized the privilege of being able to experience such outdoor activities as hiking, kayaking and cycling and realized that not everyone was as lucky to enjoy such privileges, especially those with disabilities. With a little self-reflection and empathy in mind, a powerful idea was created that would unite both people with and without disabilities.
The timing was right for CRIS founder Troy Becker as he had recently been given a severance package and thus had the opportunity to put this idea into action. During 2001, he created the name Community Recreational Initiatives Society (CRIS) and registered the organization for non-profit and charity status. He also created the first CRIS pamphlet, borrowed his first piece of equipment the “TrailRider” for hiking, and purchased one kayak. All of the CRIS operations were run out of the Becker family home. A volunteer of CRIS donated their old Mazda truck so the organization had a vehicle to transport equipment. As a way of fundraising, the CRIS organizations started collecting bottles and cans, asking businesses and restaurants to keep a separate bin for bottles and cans to be donated and collected by CRIS.
By 2002 the CRIS organization got to serve its very first participants. Although CRIS did not take out as many participants as it would have liked the idea was becoming a reality and three participants were taken out that year. The CRIS organization also got help in the equipment department when the Central Okanagan Foundation bought three kayaks for the foundation. They also received funds from the Ogopogo Rotary Club to buy the foundations first used TrailRider.
By 2003, CRIS had taking out about 20 to 30 participants. That year CRIS had its first Adaptive Outdoor Adventure trip with 2 nights and 3 days to Mabel Lake and its first Access Challenge (a type of adventure race) 2 days and three nights through a circuit at Mount Garibaldi. The non profit organization People in Motion donated their kayaking equipment to the CRIS organization to provide services to more persons with disabilities. That same year CRIS acquired its first trailer, one that was about to be thrown in the dump. After countless volunteer hours, the trailer was roadworthy and had the capacity to hold one TrailRider. CRIS also managed to sell the old Mazda truck and purchase a more reliable van dubbed “Goldie”. Shortly afterwards, the CRIS organization bought a wooden trailer and with the help of more volunteers, converted the wooden trailer into a kayak trailer. The volunteers not only donated labour, but also donated storage space for CRIS equipment.
Another key component was brought into the CRIS programming in 2004 when they added cycling to their list of programs. By adding the cycling program the CRIS organization managed to provide services to more participants. The CRIS organization received 10 tandem cycles from BC Blind Sports. That year, the first seven day CRIS Adaptive Outdoor Adventure Trip had participants and volunteers enjoying the natural beauty of Bowron Lakes, kayaking in the Interior British Columbia. The CRIS organization also had CRIS volunteers and participants return to Mabel Lake to paddle the pristine waters.
Things started to improve in 2005 for the CRIS organization as they obtained a stable rental property where they could store all of their equipment at one place. This meant less time wasted driving around town to pick up equipment often at opposite sides of town. It also meant more time for the volunteers to spend with the participants outside doing an activity that both the volunteer and the participant enjoyed. Another important change came with the hiring of the first summer student. This meant that CRIS could now offer more stable programming and run more programs. Towards the end of 2005, CRIS obtained funding to buy an actual kayak trailer and say good-bye to their old creation of a kayak trailer. The CRIS organization once again collaborated with another non-profit organization Kelowna and District Society for Community Living (KDSCL) and gave them the CRIS recycling program so people with disabilities could run the program themselves and have the money go back into their own organization.
In 2006 CRIS received the funds to purchase a newer van and a much needed hiking trailer. The hiking trailer was vital to our programs and volunteer’s schedules. Before the trailer, volunteers would have to come a few hours early to load up equipment and then strap it into the trailer and repeat the same duties after the trip was over. This could be very time consuming process. The new trailer could store up to 4 TrailRiders, 2 tandem bikes and all other necessary hiking and cycling equipment. This same year was the first CRIS seven day ocean kayak trip that sent volunteers and participants to the Gulf Islands to have a larger than life experience.
The CRIS organization received government funding for three summer students in 2007. This was also the year they acquired their first full time employee. Having three summer students and one full-time staff allowed for CRIS to take out even more participants by having even more programming. Another benefit of having more summer students is that CRIS was able to do more daily Adaptive Outdoor Adventure trips. In 2007, the CRIS organization did three major hiking trips, one seven day ocean kayaking trip through the beautiful Discovery Islands and one kids’ camp for children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in Cultus Lake.
In 2008, CRIS received funding for four summer students, three to run programming outside and one to run programming at the office in an administrative position. On top of that, CRIS has a full time Executive Director to help organize and plan trips on an administrative level as well. In 2008, CRIS ran the most Adaptive Outdoor Adventures it has ever planned. Also continuing from 2007 CRIS has taken participants out for a minimum of three trips per day Monday to Friday from May to the end of August.
2009 was the first year of having a full time staff member, the Executive Director, in the office year round. Things were getting organized and looking up with a new computer system helping the office to run smoothly and a group of Nursing students who painted the inside of the office, including the floor! CRIS had 4 summer students in 2009 – 3 out on programs and 1 in the office. The Executive Director continues working throughout the winter expanding duties into grant writing and saw the acquisition of a couple of tandem kayaks and Interior Savings sponsored the purchase of 2 tandem recumbent trikes to assist CRIS in the expansion of the Adaptive Cycling Activity. CRIS attends the Alberta Access Challenge in the Kananaskis Country.
CRIS had a fortunate year in 2010! There were 6 summer students out delivering programs in the summer, and 1 part time Office Assistant and the Executive Director working year round. To top it off, CRIS had 2 YMCA exchange students for 2 months in the summer from Quebec. Later in 2010, CRIS was approved to have 2 Job Creation Partnership participants to work with CRIS for 6 months researching, developing and implementing Adaptive Winter Activities.
CRIS also got an up grade in vehicles in 2010 with the donation of an older Ford Diesel Truck that has an amazing engine to tow our trailers for long distances or on the highways. Sponsorship was also provided by the Ogopogo Rotary Club to purchase a multi-passenger van that can transport volunteers and tow a light trailer, as well as have enough space in the back to pack for multi-day trips.
2010 saw the acquisition of a new TrailRider, 2 three-wheeled hand cycles, 2 tandem Sit-on-Top kayaks, $30,000 for adaptive equipment from the Ronald McDonald House Charities which was used to purchase a TrailRider, kayaks, and rock climbing gear for youth.
CRIS also underwent a re-categorization of the organization to now have 2 programs: Adaptive Adventures and Adaptive Wilderness Adventures. Adaptive Wilderness Adventures locations include: Cultus Lake, Seachelt Inlet, Kananaskis Country.
Keeping up with all of the the fortunate events of 2010, 2011 was another stellar year for CRIS. The Job Creation Partnership participants complete the development of Adaptive Winter Activities for CRIS, and 2011 sees some of the first trial runs of Winter Activities. In the summer, CRIS has 6 summer students, and 2 YMCA exchange students again to deliver adaptive summer programs in the Okanagan. CRIS has several practicum students completing various projects including assistance on programs, business administration in the office, creating sponsorship & partnership packages, and program usage and participant surveys.
There was a slight change in the office where the part time office assistant position changed to a year round, full time Program Director position. This position is responsible for all the aspects of participant and volunteer registering, communication and scheduling. This allowed for the Executive Director to focus on donation tracking, grant writing, submitting proposals, and updating the database, brochures, and website. Having two staff in the office has really seen an increase in the quality of work delivered to our users and members.
CRIS also developed an exciting partnership with Wild Mountain, the new North Face Store in Kelowna, and received a 14 passenger van donated from Kindale Developmental Association in Vernon and Armstrong. Another tandem recumbent trike joined our fleet of adaptive bikes in 2011 for our cycling activities. Adaptive Wilderness Adventures trip ventured off to locations such as Cultus Lake, Mount Assiniboine, Wells Grey, Kananaskis Country, and Skaha Bluffs.
After only a few months in to 2012, CRIS has implemented our adaptive winter activities once a week up at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre on Silver Star Mountain. We are developing a new, more interactive website for our visitors and members to allow for easy communication and updates about our ever-evolving organization. We are upgrading our database for more effective program scheduling which should cut down on administrative costs so our office staff can enjoy our adaptive activities as well.
CRIS has also hit a milestone in March as we have officially secured an Endowment Fund through the Central Okanagan Foundation. This will allow donations to keep on giving throughout the years to come. Early 2012 also saw the donation of a commuter van from the family of one of our former participants. This van comes complete with a lift in the front seat which will be nice in case we need to transport or transfer participants to programs.
The early part of the summer saw a change in leadership with a new Executive Director starting in June. Once again we secured summer students (6 of them) from the Canada Summer Jobs program. We also had 2 fulltime exchange students through the YMCA Exchange with Quebec. The summer flew by with record numbers of trips, participants and volunteers involved.
Our winter programs expanded to two days per week (nordic skiing and snowshoeing) and received great support right across the board.
Securing some of our major funding occurred in the winter of 2013. The Board of Directors embarked on a Strategic Planning session, given solid direction to the next 3 years for CRIS. Canada Summer Jobs summer students were secured once again (7 this year) so our summer programs are up and running at full speed! We also received 3 summer students from the YMCA Exchange with Quebec.
Adaptive Wilderness Adventures are growing rapidly and a new project is on the horizon. Stay tuned for some exciting news!!
Adaptive Wilderness Adventures program went through a name change – now called Adaptive Travel! The program saw some new partnerships and supporters join us. CRIS is proudly partnering with the West Kelowna Fire Rescue to offer the Fire In The Mountains trip.
We received funding for 6 summer students through the Canada Summer Jobs program. We continue to participate in the YMCA Youth Exchange Program as well – hosting 3 full time staff on exchange from Montreal.
CRIS kicked off the new year with the 1st Annual Polar Bear Dip – which was a great success!! Working with the UBCO Business Management Student volunteers, the Polar Bear Dip was held on January 1st, 2015 at Tug Boat Bay. Over 100 brave souls plunged into the icy waters of Okanagan Lake to start the new year with a rush! This community fundraising event is sure to grow every year and we hope will become the biggest Dip in BC!
Adaptive Adventures and Adaptive Travel continue to grow and strengthen. Funding for new equipment and core needs continues slow growth.
We hired 6 full time summer students through the Canada Summer Job program. We hired 3 YMCA Youth Exchange students as well. Experimenting with a new approach to the Program Coordinator role created a challenge throughout the summer months. In true CRIS fashion, we will embrace those learnings to strengthen our programs and how we deliver them for the future.
The 2nd Annual Polar Bear Dip was another great success! Over 350 people watched as almost 170 people did the Dip.
In January we hired a new Program & Logistics Coordinator that tackled the steep learning curve of the new position with confidence and a fresh new energy for the Adaptive Adventures program. We continue to see positive growth from both the Adaptive Adventures and Adaptive Travel programs.
We received funding to hire 9 full time students (most ever) as part of the Canada Summer Jobs program. However; this increase was a result of changes to the federal program under the new Liberal government. Although they increased the number of jobs they reduced the total number of weeks for each job from 14 to 10 weeks. These changes did not impact overall program numbers for CRIS, but did required some scheduling juggling to ensure we had staff to offer trips all summer long.
The 1st annual Boucherie Grind was a great success and we are excited to grow it to be one of the Okanagan’s premier sought after trail running races. See the link on our “Events” menu for all the details.
Kelowna Toyota shook hands with CRIS as the first official Title Sponsor of the Toyota Boucherie Grind! Thank you for the support, Kelowna Toyota!
CRIS was successful in hiring 10 summer students for 9 weeks each. As mentioned above, changes to the Canada Summer Job have greatly reduced the length of jobs. We have however, with some creative scheduling, managed to offer the same level of programming as in previous years. We continue to participate in the YMCA Youth Exchange with 3 students joining our staff this summer.
The 3rd Annual Polar Bear Dip fundraiser was another success despite windchill temperatures.
CRIS restructured the Adaptive Travel program and put it on hold until further notice. The Adaptive Adventures program continued to be strong, offering many local trips!
Our winter program was a success, with snowshoeing and cross country skiing trips occurring on a weekly basis (3-4 trips/week).
The 4th annual Polar Bear Dip set attendance records this year. Over 450 people did the plunge and an estimate total of 1000-1200 people partook in the activities. Adding two food trucks was a welcomed addition this year! The UBCO Business student volunteers continued to show their passion to give back while volunteering to run the event again this year.
During a global pandemic, CRIS was able to adapt and continued to provide programs that supported our clients during the tougher times. We also found a way to grow, piloting our Adaptive Rentals program. The program was instantly a
great success because it offered clients a more independent experience by giving them access to our fleet of adaptive equipment. In this year, CRIS also developed our Lived Experience Ambassador program, bringing in a mix of longstanding
and new clients to be part of the program.
The year 2021 was monumental to CRIS as we celebrated 20 years of Adaptive Adventures. January started off strong with the virtual Polar Bear Dip raising over $32,000 for our Organization! Our Adaptive Travel branch was rebranded and launched as Accessible Wilderness Expeditions, allowing us to take some clients on trips of a lifetime. With community support, Adaptive Adventures was able to acquire new equipment including e-bikes and paddleboards. We were able to expand our Adaptive Adventure programs, by bringing on new partnerships, such as Canucks Autism Network, allowing us to reach more clients. We were also able to expand our cross-country ski program through partnership with the Telemark Nordic Club.
In March, the City of Kelowna approved a CRIS and Elevation Outdoors partnership to set up a seasonal bike rental concession in Knox Mountain Park. Kelowna Bike Rentals (KBR) offers a variety of equipment, making adaptive bikes accessible
to the local community and visiting tourists. All proceeds from KBR go back into the two companies, helping to continuously fund our programs.
Throughout the year, CRIS was able to further our reach. Adaptive Adventures provided recreational outdoor programming to new and ongoing partners such as: Canucks Autism, Reach the Peak, and School District 22 & 23. In addition, our new program, paddle boarding, was a huge success. Overall, Adaptive Adventures nearly doubled client trips and activities, while being able to return to SMA Camp! While our Accessible Wilderness Expeditions had an epic Gulf Islands trip. Kelowna Bike Rentals and Adaptive Rentals also had another successful season.