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Anchorage nonprofit helps special needs families experience memorable adventures

Published: Jun. 13, 2021 at 8:27 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 13, 2021 at 9:13 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While most enjoy venturing outdoors in the summer, that can sometimes be a challenge for families with special needs. Adventure for Ava is a local nonprofit created by local photographer and videographer Dan Redfield.

“The program was kind of birthed through our own experiences with our daughter Ava. Ava loves the outdoors, she loves to get outside, and the best memories that we captured of her were outside,” said Redfield.

The goal of the program is to take families with special needs on unique outdoor adventures, tell their story and capture the entire experience through professional pictures and video.

For Redfield, his mission is personal. He says being a special needs father and filmmaker puts him in a unique position.

“I think it’s unique because I’m able to kind of look at it and tell their story in a way that I guess I would want my own story to be told,” he said.

On June 13, a nine-year-old named Brody who has nonverbal autism got to go on an adventure of a lifetime with his mom and uncle by riding a side-by-side to Knik Glacier, all thanks to Adventure for Ava and Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours.

“Brody loves motorized vehicles and they’ve never been to this glacier, so it was a perfect match,” said Redfield.

The adventure was all captured on camera, thanks to the photography and videography skills of Redfield and his production team.

“At the end of each adventure, our pack of deliverables is a 10 minute film, and then usually a couple hundred photos to give to the families so that they can print, do whatever they want. They get to walk away with a whole bunch of photos, and then a video to just kind of remember their special day,” he said.

Brody’s mom, Maybelin White, said she’s thankful for the experience.

“We can just let him be himself and just enjoy (the adventure),” she said. “Usually I’m the one taking videos or pictures, so today I get to focus just on enjoying the outdoors, and not have to worry about getting pictures or videos taken by myself.”

After putting on safety gear and getting a quick rundown of the trip, Brody and his family took off from Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours in Palmer for a 20 mile ride to Knik Glacier. Along the ride they stopped to enjoy the scenery, throw rocks in the water, cross a river, and were even lucky enough to spot a few sheep.

A few hours later at the glacier, it’s all smiles from Brody and his family.

“We’re feeling great, it was a really fun ride,” said White. “Brody enjoyed every second of it. It’s just breathtaking, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

That reaction is what makes Adventure for Ava so rewarding for Redfield.

“I love going on these adventures, I love seeing them smile, I love the kids and just having fun and knowing that the families are going to remember it forever,” said Redfield.

Special needs families that would like to sign up for an outdoor adventure can sign up through their website.

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