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Posted on April 1, 2016 at 1:14 PM by Anastasia Ehlers
After a 1988 internship in Eugene for what was then called Specialized Recreation (or lovingly, Spec Rec), Patty Prather made a resolution. “I said out loud, ‘I will retire from the City of Eugene.’ That was my intention.” Today, April 1, 2016 will be her last day of work at Hilyard Community Center after a remarkable career as a mentor, coach and advocate serving people with disabilities.
When a permanent job opened up in Eugene, Patty jumped at the chance to work with Eugene Adaptive Rec again. One of the programs Patty has championed at Hilyard Community Center helps people try adaptive cycling. If you can dream up a human-powered contraption with gears, a chain, and wheels, Hilyard Community Center has it. There’s a cycle for every injury or disability. Tandem cycles (side-by-side and in line!), three-wheeled cycles, recumbent cycles, hand cycles, and more. The first was a hand cycle, obtained via grant from the Christopher Reeves Foundation. The collection has grown over the years from grants, donations, partnerships and City of Eugene funds.
“Our oldest adaptive biker is 92. She later bought her own Versa trike,” Patty says. A bicycle means independence for many. “Put a basket on a three-wheeler and you don’t have to worry about balance and speed and can run your own errands. It’s as simple as being able to buy your own milk at the grocery store.”
Her other passion is working with disabled veterans. In 2008, Eugene Adaptive Rec received a grant to work with veterans from the National Recreation and Parks Association. There was a catch for Hilyard Community Center—the veterans’ program was new, Eugene Rec had no connections with that population, and local services to partner with were limited at best. “I made it my mission to provide these services and keep them accessible because there was no other support here,” she says.
To grow the program, Patty used the grant money to give veteran participants scholarships that enabled them to participate in Eugene Rec programs for free. The program quickly grew to incorporate everything from outdoor pursuits to family get-togethers to sports competitions in San Diego. For one overnight snowshoeing trip at Crater Lake, participants came from Eugene, Portland, and even southern California to attend the trip and bond over campfire stories of combat, loss and injury with others who had lived through the same experience.
Now, Eugene Rec is known as a safe place for veterans. Other community services show up to Rec events to reach vets. The program has collaborated with the Summer Sports Clinic, HUD-VASH, the Oregon Veterans Network and more.
Whether she’s working with veterans or people with developmental disabilities, Patty checks in personally with all of Eugene Adaptive Rec’s clients. “It’s about relationships,” she says. “It’s about connection, and getting people involved in their community. It’s about seeing people as people. Everybody should know there’s a person who cares about them.” All of this means that a basket on a bike is not just a place to put milk—it’s self-sufficiency and empowerment. Every opportunity Patty has connected a participant with is a gift of self-confidence, of recognizing a person’s abilities and possibilities.
“The connections and the people and the programs have fulfilled me,” Patty says. “I know that I have done my best work here.”
We agree, and offer our sincerest thanks for her passion, leadership and dedication. Please join us in congratulating Patty on her retirement!
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