Mayor Skip Rimsza


1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

Abel is a young man who became a paraplegic as the result of a shooting. He became involved in River Rampage, the Parks, Recreation and Library Departmentís white water rafting trips, on a recommendation from his physical therapist. Just a few short months out of the hospital, Abel went on a River Rampage trip on the San Juan River in Utah, which he earned by performing volunteer work at a City of Phoenix office. He went on to become a part-time City employee and graduated with honors from a local high school. After graduation, Abel traveled to Brazil for a year as a Rotary Foreign Exchange student. Upon his return, this now confident and enthusiastic young man was hired by the departmentís Clear Path Program, where he helps recruit young people with disabilities for job internship opportunities. Abel is just one example of a teenager whose life was turned around by participation in City programs such as River Rampage and through the ongoing support of dedicated City staffs and program volunteers.

The award-winning River Rampage Program pairs at risk teenagers and teens with disabilities on week-long white water rafting adventures. Since the programís inception in 1994, more than 240 young people have participated in the program. They have gained an increased sense of self-esteem and independence through their experience of running western rivers, coming together to work as a team, and contributing volunteer work to earn their trip. Diversity of its participants is one of this programís cornerstones, and a typical trip includes youths from many ethnic, socioeconomic and social backgrounds. Inner city teens who have never ventured out of their neighborhoods and those struggling to leave gangs, escape poverty, homelessness, or lives filled with drugs, abuse or violence have a chance in River Rampage to be on equal ground with peers with a variety of disabilities. These have included significant physical or mental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, head injury, blindness, deafness, mental retardation, paralysis, amputation, learning disabilities, and autism, and an increasing number of teens whose disabilities are the result of violence.

An outside evaluation has shown at least 70 percent of River Rampage teens have received measurable, lasting benefits from the experience. For many, increases in self-esteem and independence have been dramatic. Their grades improved, they made more friends and their outlook on the future improved. Thanks to funding provided by the City of Phoenix, along with additional help from area businesses, trips will continue to be offered each summer. The cost per year to run three trips and provide follow-up support is approximately $40,000. That amount would be double if not for partnering with the river companies which provide steep discounts, and receipt of outside donations.

SPONSOR: City of Phoenix Parks, Recreation and Library Department

CONTACT: Ann Wheat, Recreation Coordinator III, Phone: 602/262-4543


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The United States Conference of Mayors

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