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Jen Douglass, left, with assistance from volunteer Karen McLean, climbs a black walnut tree.

Jen Douglass thinks the view is awesome from 25 feet up in a black walnut tree.

Douglass, 21, was one of seven climbers who used a harness and pulley system to inch their way up the towering trees during a program presented by Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation on Sunday.

"You can get up on a nice branch and see the colors all around you," said Douglass, of Kingsley, who has participated in other Adaptive Sports events, including kayaking, horseback riding and waterskiing, since the age of 7.

The Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program, supported by Munson Medical Center's Physical Rehabilitation Services, offers sports and recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Volunteers and qualified tree-climbing instructors helped guide climbers to new heights during the event, held annually at Zimmerman's Landscaping.

"If this group wasn't formed, she wouldn't be able to do a lot of the things she has truly enjoyed," said Linda Douglass, whose daughter has problems with strength and gait due to cerebral palsy.

Al Mendrala, of Traverse City, a first-time climber, also tried assisted waterskiing for the first time this year.

"It's pretty good, fun," he said.

Six years after a stroke left him with weakness and aphasia, his wife, Louise, is glad they discovered the program.

"I keep on trying to make his life as exciting as possible," she said.

Providing challenges and opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities is exactly what Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation is meant to do.

"We keep working to make more things available, easier to access," said event coordinator Ann Reichert, who is working on plans for a day of downhill skiing in February.

While 13-year-old Paige Janak, of South Boardman, looks forward to hitting the slopes, she says she thoroughly enjoyed hanging out at the top of a tree.

"I didn't want to come down," she said.

For more information on Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation, call 935-8684.

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