This courtesy photo from the No Barriers USA Facebook page is captioned, “Do Not Handle This Flag with Care. It is as strong as your will and determination.”

By Caitlin Switzer

TELLURIDE—(February 19)  According to information provided by the Veterans Administration, Colorado had approximately 395,613 military veterans as of Sept. 2012.  For those returning from the service with disabilities, the challenges of returning to civilian life can seem overwhelming—and the barriers to success formidable.

This summer, a non-profit organization dedicated to erasing those obstacles will host the Annual No Barriers Summit in Telluride from Aug. 8-11. NoBarriersUSA is dedicated to “unleashing the potential of the human spirit,” and providing “transformative experiences that empower people to embrace a ‘no barriers’ mindset and discover the potential that lies within themselves and the world.”

Although the summit is still months away, the excitement is already palpable. Just ask Melanie Kline, founder of Welcome Home Montrose, an organization that provides resources for returning veterans in Montrose. “They hold these summits every two years, all over the world, in places like Switzerland and Winter Park,” Kline said. “It is very competitive—and it is coming to Telluride in 2013!” This marks the first time Telluride has hosted the No Barriers Summit, acknowledged Courtney Stuecheli, executive director of the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, which will host the majority of the recreational activities for this year’s summit.

“It is early, but we are already really, really excited,” Stuecheli said. “We are thrilled to be involved in bringing 400 to 600 people with disabilities to Telluride—we hope it will become an annual event.”

Although the process of choosing a community to host the No Barriers Summit is highly competitive, Stuecheli said that she believes Telluride may have been chosen in part because, while it is not the easiest resort to get to, the Telluride “mindset” is one of perseverance.

“The competition was really, really stiff,” she said. “But we have the idea that to get here is worth the trouble—and we think the No Barriers folks embrace that mindset too.” Locals are encouraged to plan ahead to attend, she added.“We are trying to make sure that things are affordable, and welcoming,” she said. “Please come whether you have a disability or not—just to be a part of the No Barriers Summit is a real eye opener for a lot of folks. We would love to have a lot of people here!”

Science and innovative thinking are combined in the four-day, outdoor recreational extravaganza, she noted. Among the speakers slated for the 2013 Summit are Journalist Bob Woodruff, who suffered a brain injury while reporting in Iraq and who subsequently established a foundation to help returning wounded veterans; motivational speaker, author and award-winning martial arts athlete Kyle Maynard, who just happened to have been born without arms or legs; and internationally known blind skier Erik Weihenmayer.

TASP provides approximately 2,200 lessons to people with disabilities each year. No Barriers USA, an offshoot of a program that originally began in Italy, was formed in the U.S. in 2005. The No Barriers Summit, according to the website, combines hands-on clinics, product demonstrations, outdoor excursions, films, art, music, keynote addresses, leadership exercises and symposia. Expect an expanded Innovation Village in 2013, and new, exciting clinics.

“We bring together scientists, inventors, academics, practitioners and end users in a four-day outdoor extravaganza that will challenge your conception of what is possible. The Summit is about community, innovation, discovery and exploration. This family-friendly event is for people of all ages and abilities,” the No Barriers Web site states.

Also integral to the 2013 No Barriers Summit is the Telluride Tourism Board, which helped to recruit and bring this world class event to the San Juans.