Limitless Adventures is a volunteer-led, nonprofit organization that provides outdoor recreational experiences for people with disabilities.
Founder and Executive Director Patrick Firlik, 28 said the organization was born from a “crazy idea I had when I moved out here last July” and wanted to build on volunteer experience gained living in Chicago.
“I volunteered a lot when I was in Chicago at nursing homes, homeless shelters, and other groups and I found working alongside people with disabilities was so rewarding… I wanted to do more when I moved out here than just volunteer on an Ad Hoc basis,” Firlik said.
After meeting a new coworker who runs a non-profit while also working full time, Firlik “did a little research” and noticed several organizations exists for people who are heavily involved with one sport but “nothing in the middle” for the everyday individual.
“I didn’t really see anything for those who aren’t super athletic or committed to a full season of something like basketball. That niche wasn’t being met, especially in San Diego where the weather is so conducive to outdoor adventures. I talked with non-profit leaders around the nation who work with physical disabilities, rounded up a few people— I barely knew anyone when I moved out to San Diego so I asked my one friend at work if he wanted to join in,” Firlik said.
Limitless Adventures now has an entire Board of Directors who all work together in addition to volunteering.
“We want to inspire people to try new things, push their possibilities. We have a two-fold mission: we promote exercise and healthy behavior, but also recognize the community aspect of building friendships and having fun,” Firlik said.
Event attendees come from different group homes and families; they might never have met each other before walking together on a hike, Firlik said, but everyone can walk at their own pace and the group strives to be as inclusive as possible.
“One really rewarding thing is we’ve had a lot of people tell us they’ve never hiked before who then came back for more. One lady has now been on six of our hikes,” Firlik said.
On average, about 30 people turn up for each event and, along with parents and caregivers about 40-50 attendees are on each hike.
Since February, hikes have happened all over the county, Firlik said, as well as a beach day at La Jolla Shores. Firlik said he’d “love to see more” and wants the organization to expand beyond hiking.
“I would love to see us do more activities, like surfing, sailing, fishing; I want to do beach volleyball, kayaking. I want to be known less as a hiking organization and more as an outdoor organization,” Firlik said.
The organization is currently working on making all their events more physically accessible, actively researching boats that are accessible to everyone and wheelchairs that can handle rugged terrain.
They were somewhat constrained by COVID-related distancing as organizations that might normally partner with the group tightened protocol through the pandemic, Firlik said. However, the upstart non-profit is now in conversation with several established organizations including Best Buddies, which works to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as the Autism Society of San Diego and the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County.
“When I say partnerships it’s simple things, really, like putting us in their newsletters, encouraging people to come out on an adventure. We’re always looking for partner organizations,” Firlik said, including recent limited outreach to recovery clinics.
He credits fellow board members Ben Lewis, Christina DiMaggio, Julia Roccato and Sam VandenHeuvel with sharing responsibilities and working together to drive the non-profit forward.
Visit limitless-adventures.org for more information on upcoming events.