After a zip-lining accident in 2012, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis – a flesh-eating, bacterial infection. While the doctors worked hard to save my life, they had to amputate both of her hands, her right foot and her entire left leg. She was 24 years old and grateful that she survived – but the road to recovery that lay before her felt overwhelming.

Before the infection, she was extremely active. You could often find her rock climbing, backpacking and trail running. So she quickly became frustrated with what seemed to be her new situation – just sitting in a wheelchair. A huge part of who she was no longer seemed accessible to her. And she wasn’t alone. People who use wheelchairs are often separated from the outdoors due to mobility and accessibility issues.

Being in a wheelchair has shifted her perspective, as she now fully realize the daily challenges faced by people with disabilities. And throughout her recovery, it became evident that physical barriers are not the only obstacles these individuals must overcome. People with auditory, visual, cognitive and behavioral impairments also have unique mental health needs.

aimee copeland kyacking
Since the accident, she has relearned how to connect with nature. She bikes, swims, kayak and lay in the grass – just like she used to. Reconnecting with the outdoors has been an essential component to her physical, mental and spiritual recovery. And developing a safe space that promotes healing, while providing accessible outdoor environments, has become my passion and my goal. To do this, she created the Aimee Copeland Foundation, which will raise funds to build and run an inclusive wellness park and holistic therapy center – right in metro Atlanta.