Visionary Difference Maker makes Outdoor Adventures Accessible to All
Grade 7 student Alexis Folk was instrumental in creating opportunities for students with disabilities to experience nature at Adam Robertson Elementary School in Creston, B.C.
When Sofeya Devji, a teacher of blind and visually impaired students at the school, invited Alexis to help shape the Project Adventure program for out-of-classroom learning experiences for students with visual impairments, Alexis agreed — but only if the program could be open to all students with disabilities.
“I feel strongly that people with disabilities should be included in all activities, even if they have challenges,” Alexis says. “People with disabilities often don’t get to experience the same things as people without disabilities. Field trips are just one example.”
Alexis, who has cerebral palsy and uses a walker for mobility support, was the driving force in raising $2,500 for that year’s dog sledding adventure.
“Alexis’ focus and dedication to this project was inspiring,” says Sofeya, Alexis’ nominator. “She met with me weekly after school, in the evenings and even on weekends. She spent many hours of her own time researching funding options, sending emails and reviewing her progress with me. She taught me there are so many students with disabilities out there who could benefit from this program.”
Alexis’ fundraising efforts included organizing a bake sale and writing letters to all of the Creston Valley clubs to request financial support for the program. She spoke to the head of each club, informing them of the importance of having students with disabilities come together and meet each other in a setting that was new to all of them. “I also learned how to hold my own Zoom meetings,” she says.
When asked how the group of students reacted to having the opportunity to try dog sledding, Alexis says, “One boy was super excited to see sled dogs, and another was a bit worried because he was scared of dogs - but he really enjoyed himself and found a super-fluffy dog that he wanted to take home.
“I had to explain what the project was about and why we were doing it. My best friend usually gets nervous about trying new things, but she really loved the sledding and noticed how much noise the dogs made when they got picked to lead the sleds. She got over her nerves and really enjoyed the day.”
When Alexis was notified she’d been recognized as a Difference Maker of the Year, “I was shocked, and proud of how I made a difference for kids and adults,” she says.
“My mum was so happy she burst into tears!”