Ability Blog Archives - National Ability Center

Meet Kaustubh Thapa

Hometown: Dolakha, Nepal

Position: Marketing and Business Development Assistant

Hobbies: Travel, Photography, Rock Climbing, Gardening and Reading

Kaustubh, or Kaus (pronounced like “House” but with a “K”) was born in Nepal. He was born in Dolakha, six hours outside Kathmandu and raised in the capital city. As a child he was able to travel around Nepal with his father who built offices and buildings. This exposure to different cultures and landscapes at a young age cultivated his passion for travel.

He came to the United States for his undergraduate where he received a Bachelor of Arts at Westminster College in Missouri, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Political Science Economics. Next he built a primary school in rural Nepal, his home country, as part of Projects for Peace in 2010. He also served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America in the capacity of development assistant for a year in Salt Lake City before going to grad school. Kaustubh also assisted Real Food Rising in Salt Lake City, a group of community gardens where with the efforts of two other team members grew the number of beds from nine to 18.

For his masters in Environmental Science Policy and Management, he attended three different universities. First he attended Central European University in Hungary where he spent two semesters, he then went to the University of Aegean on the Aegean Islands in Greece for half a semester. His last semester was at the University of Manchester, which he described as a very rainy experience, the highlight of which was being able to travel and explore Scotland.

Favorite destination:

Romania was Kaustubh’s favorite travel destination, he has been there five times and hopes to go again soon. While he was there he worked with small communities of farmers. He was enamored with the mountains and the rich culture of tradition the people had preserved.

Fun Fact:

Kaustubh means Gem Stone and originates from Hindu Mythology.

Save the Date:

As an avid photographer and traveler Kaustubh has created quite a portfolio. He will be having an exhibit in Salt Lake City at Art Access Gallery: 230 S 500 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 from July 21st to August 11th.

The name of the exhibit is “Colors and Shadows”, the inspiration for the selected photos comes from his experience traveling and interest in landscapes. He seeks to capture moments, however, not just a static moment in time but the motion of a moment utilizing long exposure in his work.

You can see more of his work on his Instagram @kausthapa






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




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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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Meet Jr. Camp Counselor, Tom Norton

Jr. Camp Counselor - Archery PhotoHailing from the great state of New Jersey, Tom is going to be a Junior Camp Counselor for the first time at the NAC this summer!

Tom has low vision and challenges with depth perception, but that hasn’t stopped him from experiencing all the wonderful activities we offer at the National Ability Center! Tom started skiing at Park City Mountain with the National Ability Center when he was 13 and in the past three years has attended eight camps throughout both summer and winter seasons.

Tom is currently a junior in high school and works at REI, he is looking to apply to college soon and plans to study something involving the outdoors!

This summer, rather than joining in the camps as a camper, Tom will be coming to us as a Junior Camp Counselor. He is very excited to experience camp from a different perspective while also participating in the awesome activities the National Ability Center has to offer.

We asked Tom a few questions to find out exactly why he keeps coming back year after year. Here’s what he had to say:

What is your favorite thing about Utah?

All of the outdoor activities that I am able to do with ease. Everybody is super friendly and accommodating!

What is your favorite thing about the NAC?

My favorite thing about the National Ability Center is that there are so many activities that a person can do, and we accommodate all skill levels and disabilities.

What is your favorite activity at camp?

My favorite activities at summer camp are archery and the challenge course and my favorite activities at winter camp are downhill skiing or rock climbing.

What is your biggest challenge, and how do you do manage this challenge?

My biggest challenge is my low vision but I am pretty good at adapting to my situation and asking for help.

What are you looking forward to most about being a camp counselor?

I want the experience from being a counselor and being able to help people in the camps. I am also still able to do most of the activities that the campers are doing, which is fun. If someone has any trouble with the activities I will most likely be able to help them.

What is the best advice you would give a new camper going away from home for the first time?

Be open to all situations and know that you can always call home. Once you get to camp you most likely won’t think about home that much because there are so many fun activities.

We are greatly looking forward to having Tom at camp assisting with camps as a junior counselor. We know that he will be great addition to the NAC team and be able to really help out those first time campers who are nervous about being away from home.

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 Freedom: Melinda Crandall

Melinda Crandall rediscovered freedom on the slopes with the National Ability Center after a series of unfortunate accidents changed her life. With her husband, Ben and the National Ability Center community by her side, Melinda is able to enjoy life here in the mountains of Utah.

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