The Adaptive Outdoor Education Center is an awesome and inspiring place for disabled Mainers

Adaptive Outdoor Education Center 5I knew nothing about the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center as I sat in the audience at the October meeting of the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund board. I was there seeking a grant for the new Keep Maine Clean program being organized by the Maine Resource Recovery Association. KMC hopes to build an army of good folks who pick up trash along our roads and highways. And we did get that grant.

MOHF is a program I conceived, proposing it to the board of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and then recruiting Maine Audubon as a full partner. We collected signatures to put the initiative on the ballot, but the legislature went ahead and enacted it and Governor Angus King signed it into law. The program gets its funding from an instant lottery game and has contributed over $18 million to conservation and outdoor recreation programs. I was privileged to serve on the board for the program’s first 10 years.

Sitting there at the October meeting, I was so pleased to see so many deserving projects receive funding. I want to tell you about one of those today.

Bruce and Annemarie Albiston

In 2005 Annemarie’s father had a massive stroke, and like so many people, it changed his entire world in an instant. An educator for over 40 years, communicating with young adults was not only his forte but his passion. Aphasia, a communication disorder, left him struggling to carry on a conversation, read and write.

Annemarie and her husband Bruce set out to learn as much about Aphasia as possible and to make a positive difference for people struggling with this little understood condition.  They founded the Aphasia Center of Maine and held their first Annual Andre R. Hemond Aphasia Retreat Weekend in July of 2012.  Retreats have been held annually since 2012, with the number of participants growing every year.

Inspired by the positive changes one weekend could make in the lives of their participants, the Albistons searched for a way to reach more people with a wide variety of challenges in more extended time frames. Their vision, now a reality, is the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center in Carrabassett Valley, Maine.

Adaptive Outdoor Education Center

Adaptive Outdoor Education Center 6This is an impressive program and place, with a goal of providing quality outdoor recreational and educational opportunities, and an improved quality of life, to people of all ages with disabilities. Their fully accessible facility is located in the Carrabassett Valley (near Sugarloaf), and includes a hostel style lodge and 30’ yurt, plus lots of outdoor recreational opportunities.

But they also deliver programs at other locations throughout the state, including the wonderful Pine Tree Camp in Rome. The AOEC serves individuals with blind/visual impairments, aphasia, Parkinson’s, sensory processing disorders, autism, developmental and other disabilities. And they are an all-year-long four-season program, including alpine skiing, nordic cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, mountain climbing, fishing (fly and deep sea), cycling, rock climbing, Audubon Programming, archery, swimming, field trips, and arts and crafts. Impressive, for sure.

After opening last December, the program has grown exponentially, and has a very exciting lineup of programs this winter.

If you are as inspired by this program as I am, there are several ways to participate, including as a volunteer and by donating. And perhaps you are disabled, or know someone who is. Let them know about this place! And please check out their website to learn more.


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.