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New sense of mobility

By Staff | Nov 28, 2014

Submitted Matthew Bohl tries out Annie’s House’s new action track chair at Bottineau Winter Park on Nov. 1.

For most of his life, Matthew Bohl has been wheelchair-bound.

The 24-year-old Rugby resident was born with spina bifida, a birth defect of the spine that has paralyzed him from the waist down.

Earlier this month at Bottineau Winter Park, Bohl had the opportunity to try a new feature put in place by Annie’s House Adaptive Recreation Program. The new action track chair is drawing excitement from Bohl and others with physical disabilities.

An action track chair is an electrical wheelchair with a triangular wheel track. Controlled by a joystick, the chair is capable of five speeds – topping at five miles per hour.

Bohl found out about the chair through his older brother, Jesse, who fixed combines for a Bottineau Winter Park employee.

“The guy said to Jesse, ‘Bring your brother up (to Bottineau) and let him try (the chair) out,'” Matthew Bohl said. “It was a blast, I thought.”

Matthew recalled taking the chair on a hiking trail and almost running over a tree stump.

“It was just amazing,” said Twyla Bohl, Matthew’s mother, who went with him to Bottineau Winter Park. “We went into some really rough terrain. This one guy said try and tip (the chair) over and you couldn’t.”

The chair was used to go on ski slopes and nature trails. However, Annie’s House Adaptive Recreation Director Mike Cerkowniak said the potential is there for it to “go where wheelchairs normally don’t go.” Cerkowniak said, eventually, it could be used for disabled persons to go hunting, ice fishing, ziplining and more.

Cerkowniak said the action track chair was well received by Matthew and the three others who tested it.

“The big thing is they could see the possibilities and advantages of using it up here, and so could we,” Cerkowniak said. “I think they were all excited with the possibilities that it offered.”

ABOUT ANNIE’S HOUSE

For more than two years, Annie’s House has made accommodations for Bottineau Winter Park visitors with physical and cognitive disabilities at its 11,500-square foot facility. Some the Park’s activities include sharing skiing and other winter experiences with disabled children and Wounded Warriors through adaptive means, according to the Bottineau Winter Park website.

Cerkowniak said Annie’s House took its name from Ann Nicole Nelson, a North Dakota native who was killed in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Having “a home in North Dakota” was the seventh item on Nelson’s bucket list, which her mother found on her laptop computer years later, according to a New York Times article.

Construction on the facility began in 2012 and was completed in eight months, with funds raised through the New York Says Thank You Foundation and charitable donations.

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