Ability Blog Archives - National Ability Center

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NAC: Where I learned to fly

Dolly Murphy lived at the bottom of her closet for a year. Sleeping only one hour per night, her waking moments were consumed by her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) inflicted by the military sexual trauma she experienced during her time in active duty.

“When you go through trauma, especially military sexual trauma, your freedom to choose is taken away and affects your everyday life because it overwhelms you,” Murphy said.

In 2015, Murphy first became involved with the National Ability Center through “Warrior Renew,” a program organized by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. While harnessing up for a ropes-course program at the NAC Ranch, Murphy’s PTSD was triggered and she had a flashback. Murphy came to understand her PTSD as a disconnect between her morals and values and the trauma she experienced.

NAC ski instructor, Carly Major and NAC Military Programs participant Dolly Murphy at Park City Mountain Resort during Ski Week 2018.

“NAC has given me a place to have the security and safety to heal,” Murphy said.

Much of her progress and ongoing recovery is owed to her visits at the National Ability Center (NAC). In 2017, she participated in Dr. Craig Bryan’s “R&R Program” facilitated by the NAC where she withstood three other triggering experiences. Murphy is grateful for experiencing these flashbacks in a supported environment like the NAC.

“If we hadn’t been doing an in-patient program in an outpatient setting, I never would have been triggered. The doctor would not have been able to help me,” Murphy said.

This step forward was the first of many for Murphy. For six years, she never left the comforts of the bunny hill when she went skiing. However, the new year of 2018 meant new turns for Murphy. This January, she tried her first blue run during NAC Ski Week, a week of winter activities for service members and their caregivers and families. With encouragement from NAC instructor Carly Major, Murphy began to trust herself again.

“It was just like Rose on Titanic,” Murphy said. “That freedom, that openness to do what my will is, and not be afraid. I’ve been given back that freedom to make a choice for myself.”

On the day of Murphy’s blue-run achievement, NAC partner Dominion Energy presented a check for $50,000 that will go towards Military Health and Wellness Programs like those Murphy has participated in.

“If it wasn’t for donations from groups like Dominion and Vail EpicPromise, there’s people like me that would be lost,” Murphy said. “Without NAC, there is no guarantee that I would be alive today.”

Murphy skiing at Park City Mountain Resort during NAC Ski Week 2018.

Murphy hopes to take more individual lessons at the NAC in the future, especially our Nordic skiing programs.

“If it weren’t for these programs, I probably wouldn’t have seen the light at the end of the tunnel and I probably would have given up,” Murphy said.

“NAC has given me a place to have the security and safety to heal,” Murphy said.


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I am Resilience: Edward “Flip” Klein, Army Major (Ret.)

Edward “Flip” Klein,, Army Major (Ret.) shares his experiences with the National Ability Center. “Being injured is tough. The way to make it easier is to have faith in yourself and the way to get faith in yourself is to challenge yourself. What better way than the outdoors to do that?” Klein says.

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Joining Together to Provide Unparalleled Services for All Abilities

It’s been just over nine months since the National Ability Center and Splore joined forces. A historic, significant and incredible moment for both organizations, our combined missions, programs, families, partners, volunteers and supporters. As you can imagine the past few months have be filled with learning, connecting, struggle and triumph as we take the best of both. There have already been amazing moments throughout our short journey together – having both founders, Meeche and Martha, share their wisdom at our spring staff retreat, a 40th celebration with over 200 Splore supporters and the famous (or infamous) Disgusting Brothers last Saturday night and a 50 year lease with Vail Resorts to grow our on-mountain programs.


“And here we are in the first steps of joining the National Ability Center-and from where I’m standing, it’s a dream come true.  Like Splore, the NAC was an early actor in the accessibility movement.  The collected abilities and shared resources of the NAC and Splore are a galvanizing complement.”  
Martha Ham, Founder of Splore

Combined, NAC and Splore bring over 70 years of expertise and programming for people of all abilities. Our history is our foundation and we will remain true to it as we forge forward together. And everyone who knows Martha and Meeche agrees – it is because of them Splore and NAC are still here, thriving today.

I greatly admire both Meeche White, co-founder of the National Ability Center, and Martha Ham, founder of Splore for a lot of reasons. First among those reasons is their leadership in what is now called the “ability movement.”  Back in the late 70s and early 80s, Martha and Meeche, in their own separate ways, challenged us all to think differently. Before the ADA and other regulations even came into play, they gave individuals with disabilities a voice and a choice. Both organizations started as grassroots movements that provided people who’d previously been viewed as “limited” the opportunity to challenge themselves and the status quo. Martha and Meeche each saw a need, imaged a future with new possibilities, willingly took a leap that they could make a difference, and then, most importantly, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.



Both organizations started as grassroots movements that provided people who’d previously been viewed as “limited” the opportunity to challenge themselves and the status quo.


As Martha describes early Splore adventures, “staff, participants and volunteers were drawn to the landscape, and most notably to the river. These forays, or dare I say “experiments” called river trips with people of all abilities blurred the line, leveled the playing field, opened our eyes and delivered us to a new social norm. It would be hard to say who learned more.”


“Together, we have much to celebrate in having served so many people with disabilities throughout the years. Now the NAC and SPLORE can be even more effective as we merge our energies and resources.”
Meeche White, National Ability Center Co-Founder


Together, we have much to celebrate in having served so many people with disabilities throughout the years,” shared Meeche, “Now the NAC and SPLORE can be even more effective as we merge our energies and resources.”
I could not be more honored to have the support, guidance and mentorship of both Meeche White and Martha Ham as we move forward as one organization with unparalleled services for all abilities. It’s not lost on me, and hopefully not you either, how different our world would be without pioneers, visionaries and advocates like these two incredible women. And, it’s now our responsibility to make sure their vision continues to grow.

Together, we are already serving more than 5,500 individuals of all abilities from Utah and all over world on the Wasatch Front, in Moab, to the Ranch in Park City and the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort and beyond.

Take a look at the energy building at last Saturday’s Anniversary event: https://discovernac.smugmug.com/Events/Splore-40th-Anniversary/

Join me as we advocate, share, give, volunteer, and most importantly, recognize and celebrate the abilities within each of us. To learn more about how to get involved visit www.discovernac.org,www.splore.org or stop by the ranch for a tour!



Gail Barille
Chief Executive Officer
National Ability Center

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Feature Friday: Queen Lauren Willie, Volunteer Manager

Full name: Queen Lauren “Rockstar” Willie

Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT

Position: Volunteer Manager

Hobbies: Rowing, Hiking Dormant Volcanoes, Crafting, Home Demolition

What brought you to the NAC?

A passion for creating opportunities for others who seek to generously donate their time to support a cause they believe in. And of course I love the mission and how my position helps to further it.

What should we know about Lauren?

First and foremost, Lauren loves to travel. She graduated from the University of Utah with a double major in Public Relations and International Studies. Not ready to jump into a 9-5 after college she moved to Australia for an internship with the U.S. consulate. After that she joined the Peace Corp for 27 months, but she has spent over 30 months total in Cameroon, Africa. While there she researched how to promote the use of local assets, community member’s skills, and local resources to benefit and further develop the infrastructure of the community. She also, brought hand cycles to people with Polio so that they could get around easier and planted lots and lots of Moringa trees. Interestingly enough you can use every part of the Moringa tree. Lauren told us the leaves are the best because you can add them to any dish and they will add a good source of calcium. After her Peace Corps mission Lauren attend Westminster for her Masters in Arts and Communities Leadership. She was in the first cohort with an international development focus, essentially, learning how to run non profits. Her thesis was: The Voice of Indigenous Populations in Development. Her time in Africa was a huge influence in this as she sought to make an argument to bring community development back to the grass roots level. After achieving her Masters degree Lauren worked for the Ronald McDonald House and developed their volunteer program. Lauren was ready for a new challenge and loves the outdoors so naturally the National Ability Center was a great fit.  The NAC would not be what it is today without help from our many volunteers. Lauren’s role is crucial in organizing and empowering our volunteers while ensuring they feel appreciated and valued for all of their precious donated time and hard work.

Fun Fact, how Lauren became a Queen:

Lauren is a Queen in Africa! Her title is Ekandim Nkanda. She was given the highest honor awarded to women in the Manyu Division in Cameroon, Africa. This honor was bestowed upon her because of the work she did in the community and her ability to listen instead of imposing Western culture on the people. Since she is a Queen, if someone should offend or cross her she may fine them one goat and up to one cow.

You are stranded on a deserted island, who would you bring and what is one item you have to have?

I would have to bring my niece and nephew, Mason and Emma. We would have to have snow cones, because if that isn’t happiness I don’t know what is.

Lauren is absolutely wonderful to work with. She greets you with a smile and makes you feel like a member of the NAC family from Day 1, regardless of what you do to help the organization. Also, she has great candy at her desk so going to her with questions or just to visit is always extra sweet! Thank you for all you do Lauren!

Learn more about National Ability Center Camps!


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Feature Friday: COACH Intern Taylor Geiger

Age: 18

Hometown: Yarmouth, Maine

Years associated with the NAC: 3


What is a COACH Intern?

Taylor has participated in camps at the NAC and this summer she came all the way from Maine to participate as a COACH Intern. The COACH Internship Program is a year round, seasonal (9-12 week) program designed to create a structured continuum of growth and learning for young adults with differing abilities to help them transition successfully from school to work. We empower these individuals by building self-esteem, confidence and lifetime skills through sport, recreation and educational programs.

Favorite part about being a COACH Intern?

I love to participate in all of the activities in more of a helper position rather than just being a camper. I’ve been through what these kids have been through and I really enjoy helping them build confidence and working with kids of all abilities.

What is your favorite program to help with?

The Barn, anything in the barn with the horses. I was diagnosed with Autism when I was a baby and started therapeutic riding when I was two. I had to learn how to speak, how to balance and how to coordinate my body movements to ride. It was through my therapeutic riding that I fell in love with horses and riding. I did so well with it that by age four I went to a different barn and started taking riding classes. At age six I could walk and trot. At age nine, I started cantering. At age 10, I leased my own horse and at age 13 we bought my horse, Gus. With Gus I was walking, trotting, cantering AND jumping. I started competing doing jumping and shows. That is what I usually do in the summers, compete in horse shows, but this year I really wanted to come to the NAC and be a COACH intern so I could give back to others.

What will you do when you graduate High School?

I’ll be a senior this year in high school. I want to go to school in Maine and study to become an Occupational Therapist so that I can come back to the NAC and work full time. I want to learn how to help kids even more and help them learn with therapeutic riding like I did. Being able to give back is really important to me.

What is your best advice?


“That it’s possible to do anything if you set a goal. It’s hard in the beginning, but the outcome is worth it.”

-Taylor Geiger

We are so grateful to have Taylor assist with all of our programs and camps this summer. Her positive attitude and friendly smile brightens the campus everywhere she goes. She is eager to learn and not afraid to ask questions so she can understand every aspect of the NAC better. Thanks to people like Taylor and supporters like Vail EpicPromise for being such a wonderful part of the National Ability Center Family – you make our mission come to life!

Learn more about National Ability Center Camps!


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Have an experience at the National Ability Center that you’d like to share with our community?

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I am Accomplishment: Daniel & Rachel Gwyn

The Gwyn family rides with the National Ability Center. Hear how adaptive horseback ridinge has impacted their lives.

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I am a Volunteer: Tim Clark & Bill Engvall

Tim Clark and Comedian, Bill Engvall are an important part of keeping the National Ability Center ranch running 365 days a year.  As volunteers, they find satisfaction in knowing they are making an impact and creating opportunities for joy and success.

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I am Happiness: Thomas & Alex Abreu

Carlos and Alex Abreu have Cerebral Palsy. Through hippotherapy at the National Ability Center, his Abreu family has seem many improvements including confidence, better balance and the discovery of a source of joy and inspiration for the entire family.

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I am Purpose: Ginger Mercer

Ginger Mercer came to the National Ability Center with PTSD and depression and social anxiety. But, through interaction with our horses in the Equine Assisted Learning program, she feels lighter and has found purpose.

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