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'I can't walk, but I can fly': Adaptive ziplining program sends disabled people soaring through the trees

12 people with disabilities took part in an adaptive ziplining clinic put on by Mary Free Bed and IKUS at Camp Indian Trails on Saturday.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Surrounded by trees, a woman is slowly lifted into the air. As she's lifted further from her wheelchair, cheers fill the air. A minute later, she's flying through the air on a zipline.

“I’m free. I have freedom," says Joani Picard. "I can do this. I can go anywhere.”

Joani hasn't been able to walk for four years. Before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she was very active.

“I was a runner, I coached volleyball, I love being outdoors, camping when I could,” Joani says. “I was afraid life was done and I would be stuck not doing anything or going anywhere.”

Fast forward to today. Joani is one of 12 people with disabilities taking part in an adaptive ziplining clinic put on by Mary Free Bed and IKUS at Camp Indian Trails.

Also ziplining Saturday are Chris Schmitt and Mike Willette. Both men suffered strokes, but refuse to let that stop them from experiencing the thrills they loved before their disabilities.

"It gives people hope," says Schmitt.

Willette is there with his father, Mick. The pair spend a lot of time together, and outside the box activities like ziplining keep things interesting.

"It's a lot better than just going out to eat, which is our usual go-to," says Mick.

For Schmitt, the high-flying adventure is something he picked up after his stroke. He was, and still is, an avid skateboarder, but says he became more of a thrill seeker because of events like today's clinic.

“I never did anything like this," Schmitt says. "Ziplining, rock climbing, anything like that.”

For Joani, today has given her a renewed sense of freedom.

"I feel like I can do anything now." 

MS has made her unable to walk, but at least for today, she doesn't seem to care - she can fly.

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