By Brooke Geery
Vermont Adaptive’s mission, which is to make sports such as biking and skiing possible for athletes who’ve suffered life-changing injuries or were born with disabilities, takes a strong community and a lot of money to sustain. Each year, the organization holds the VT Adaptive Charity Challenge with a goal to raise $300,000, an event which culminates with a festival in the Skyeship Base Area at Killington Resort. Athletes – both adaptive and not — participate in different activities throughout the day, all to raise money to support the program.
This year, Motocross legend and adaptive star Doug Henry took time off from maintaining his 80-acre farm and moto track in Torrington, Connecticut to join the festivities himself.
Henry is notable not just for his career of motocross accolades including AMA Championship titles, but for more comebacks than should be humanly possible. After battling back from a broken back that should have ended his career between 1995-1997, he’d continue to win titles and make waves by dominating on a four-stroke Yamaha he would popularize. Even two simultaneously broken arms couldn’t stop him. With a storied motocross career in the books, Henry set his sights on Supermoto and Snowmobile racing, winning X Games medals in the process, but tragedy would strike in 2007 when a Supermoto crash left him paralyzed from the waist down.
While this would be a career-ending injury for most, Henry has continued to ride both moto and mountain bikes using special adaptive equipment and is now a notable ambassador for adaptive sports.
He first visited The Beast in 2018 to participate in the adaptive race at the Fox US Open, which is how he became aware of Vermont Adaptive. As his life has evolved, he’s found himself more and more involved in fundraising and helping other athletes battling injury and paralysis.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of fundraisers for riders who get injured in motocross or just in general for trauma in the motorcycle industry amongst families and friends,” he says. “I do five charity events a year. It’s something I like doing, so getting into the fundraising side of things is something I’ll probably lean more towards in the next few years.”
Though inclement weather tried to put a damper on the 2023 Vermont Adaptive Charity Challenge, Henry was still excited to participate in the 20-mile road ride on Saturday, June 17.
“It’s great being able to go on the road and ride without worrying about cars hitting me,” he says. “I don’t ride bicycles on the road, I ride bike paths, so it was nice to come here on a group ride in a group setting and be a little bit safer.”
He said events such as this one are important in so many ways.
“You kind of get to meet people and create a web of connections,” he says. “When people get injured and they’re looking for stuff to do, Vermont Adaptive is a great organization and so many people are benefitting from what they’re doing. I’m one of them.”
After the ride, Henry was happy to relax at the Killington Grand Hotel, which he noted for its accessibility and beautiful view, and recharge before bringing his bucket bike out on the trails Sunday.
In the 16 years since his injury, Henry has become adept at doing almost everything with his upper body. He explained how downhill mountain biking is possible despite not being able to walk.
“I have two spotters that help. I’ll wheel over and transfer myself on to the lift. I have two stronger people on each side and my bike goes ahead and hopefully it’s waiting at the station. When I get to the top, I just kinda put my arms around them, each person grabs a leg and puts me right in the bike, clip in and I’m ready to go.”
Henry is obviously not someone to let a challenge slow his roll, and even though the forecast wasn’t looking ideal, he was excited to rip on some new trails.
“I love Blue Magic, I had a great time on that last time I was here,” he says. “I sort of ended up on Goat Skull for the bottom half and I loved it! I don’t know how it is from the first half, but I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully the weather cooperates—as long as the visibility is ok, I’ll be good.”