Late Wednesday morning, a bright red Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation van headed south from Monument Square in Portland on a 315-mile journey to Long Island, New York.
It was carrying 300 donated Karbon winter jackets to aid storm victims in New York, Eric Topper, Maine Adaptive director of Outreach, stated in a Wednesday morning news release.
Newry-based Maine Adaptive, formerly Maine Handicapped Skiing, is the state's largest adaptive recreation organization for people with disabilities. It recently replaced the donated winter jackets worn by its volunteer instructors.
The replacement of instructors’ uniforms was part of the organization’s rebranding effort over the past year, Topper said.
“We wanted to find the best possible use for the old jackets, most of which have plenty of life left in them," Peter Adams, Maine Adaptive's executive director, said Wednesday.
“We have received so much generous support from our community, especially recently, and ‘giving back’ is what we are all about.”
Adams said that through the same creativity and collaboration that Maine Adaptive's typical work requires, they found "this ideal, timely solution."
"These tough jackets that have served our volunteers so well will now be a warm relief to 300 Sandy victims just in time for the holidays," he said.
"This contribution represents the giving spirit of all Mainers, as well everyone in the Maine Adaptive community.”
The old jackets will be delivered to Materials for the Arts in Long Island City to have the old MHS logo patched over and the jackets redistributed to aid agencies serving the New York metro area, Topper said.
He said Maine Adaptive chose Monument Square "as a high profile, central location to load the remaining jackets which have been collected at various places over the past week or so," Topper said at Monument Square.
Portland allowed the organization to park the van there amongst the trucks for the Wednesday morning farmers' market.
Maine Adaptive provides adaptive skiing, snowboarding, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing lessons and programs for more than 400 people with a broad range of physical disabilities at numerous alpine and Nordic resorts.
"Thanks to the work of the volunteer instructors who teach most lessons, all Maine Adaptive programs are free of charge," Topper said.
When the organization changed its name from Maine Handicapped Skiing last year, it made the old uniforms obsolete.
"Most of those jackets were more than 10 years old as well, so the organization faced a significant capital expense even before rebranding," Topper said.
With help from Maine Adaptive Board member Tony Lawless, a former participant who became a volunteer and race coach, a matching challenge grant from the Marjorie Harris Reynolds Foundation for $30,000 was secured and effectively cut the price in half.
Lawless and other Board members led the effort to raise the necessary funds to secure the match, including challenging volunteers to contribute financially.
The organization successfully conducted an accelerated mini-capital campaign in September and the contract was completed on Oct. 1. Four hundred new uniform jackets are to arrive in December and will be distributed to volunteers during their preseason training days, Topper said.