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Northwest Association for Blind Athletes opening office in Boise

“Having an actual physical space and having team members on the ground in Boise is just going to help expand and scale those programs,” Picciano said.
Credit: NWABA
A Northwest Association of Blind Athletes volunteer and athlete ride a tandem bike on the Boise River Greenbelt.

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

The Northwest Association for Blind Athletes began facilitating sports for individuals who are visually impaired or blind in Vancouver, Washington, 15 years ago. The association has been providing similar programs to Idahoans from a distance since 2012.

Now the NWABA has solidified its presence with a new office located at 1444 S. Entertainment Ave. Suite 201 in Boise, holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new office on Thursday.

“For the past 10 years, program specialists have been traveling from the Vancouver office into the Boise area to provide these different adaptive sports events. For everything from hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, all kinds of adaptive sports. They’ve been flying from the office to host these events,” Program Manager Samantha Picciano. “We’re excited to be expanding programs across Idaho and Montana.”

Picciano, who previously worked as a teacher of the visually impaired and mobility specialist, said the office will allow for more growth and give the association more reach to those who are visually impaired. That reach will be through ongoing sports programming.

“Having an actual physical space and having team members on the ground in Boise is just going to help expand and scale those programs,” Picciano said.

She is expecting this expansion to help focus on quality “life-changing” programming for Idahoans who are blind or visually impaired.

“Right now we’re working with adult athletes, however, our organization targets all ages,” Picciano said. “We’re really tapping into that youth population. I’m looking forward to community partners like the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind, the Idaho Commission for the Blind, and really kind of tapping into those community partners.”

To help with that expansion, Picciano is looking to employ 12 more people in Idaho.

“We’re always seeking partners, volunteers who are looking to support our mission and programs,” she said. “We rely a lot on volunteers to, number one, assist with the safety of our programs because we do try to have a 1-1 ratio of volunteer or staff member to athlete.”

According to Picciano, as far as disabilities go, individuals who are blind or visually impaired are in the lowest incidence community, meaning the disabilities are less common within the general population. The NWABA is intended to not just be a service opportunity, but to also be educational and an immersive community for people to give back to, Picciano said.

“We are incredibly excited to have a permanent presence in Idaho. Our new office in Boise allows us to expand our life-changing programs and services,” said CEO Billy Henry in a news release. “This new location will support expansion of more ongoing weekly programs, development of new services, and deepen engagement with the individuals and families we serve across Idaho.”

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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