Thursday, January 31, 2008

Meeting The Need

Dallas Dietrich was an avid skier and outdoor enthusiast for years, but his chief source of joy was in helping people, particularly people with disabilities. Now disabled himself from an auto accident over ten years ago, he still has his chief source of joy — helping other people.

Dietrich was one of a half dozen people in 1978 who started Ski for Light, a program that provides skiing experiences for people with disabilities in South Dakota. Now he has a new venture, Meeting The Need.

Meeting The Need strives to provide an adventure retreat for people with disabilities in a historic mining, mountain environment that is totally handicapped-accessible. The project also plans to collect and provide adaptive equipment for people who can’t afford it.

Dietrich said there is a need for lodging for people with disabilities during the tourist season. He and his wife, Mary Dietrich, own a tourist businesses in Keystone, and they notice many tourists in wheelchairs. Once, a wheelchair basketball team from Utah visited Keystone and didn’t have a place to stay. Dietrich says any lodging, let alone handicapped-accessible lodging, is hard to find during the busy tourist season.

He wants to create a retreat center on 102 acres that he and Mary own at the old mining site of Otho, east of Keystone. Dietrich wants to restore the existing buildings, including a bunkhouse, a cookhouse, a supervisor’s cabin and an office. “We want to make sure they are restored to the period, but we also want to make sure they are handicapped-accessible,” he said.
The group also hopes to build a lodge on the property. Both the lodge and the restored old buildings would provide lodging for disabled people and their families visiting the Hills. Dietrich wants to be able to accommodate gatherings ranging from a couple to groups of 20. Dietrich also hopes to have rehabilitation equipment on site so patients could come out to “rehab in the fresh air.”

But, he said, the organization would be more than a resort or retreat destination. It could also do such things as take a disabled person to Mount Rushmore or provide a getaway for family members caring for a sick person.

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