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The Vision

The Access Medora initiative is our opportunity to improve experiences for guests by raising our standards through creative, adaptive solutions and unique amenities for people with disabilities.

Initiatives

  • Establish an Access Medora Endowment to maintain our capital improvements and support complimentary partner programming. We will request 10% of every donation to Access Medora over $25,000 to go towards the endowment.
  • Internal staff position to be a family ambassador as an advocate for guests with special needs for individualized trip planning. Grow partnerships with specialized services to conduct employee trainings and help identify and implement new opportunities through technology.
  • Partner driven camps hosted in our accessible facilities.
  • Summer employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Through our strategic planning process with our Board of Directors, we have identified two initiatives: preserving our western heritage through equine experiences and becoming a world class destination for outdoor recreation for mountain biking and hiking. Finding adaptive solutions for each activity will be a priority.
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Kayak for kids

Additional research will identify future opportunities and partnerships. We look forward to engaging philanthropic partners to accomplish our full vision.

Our Why

We’ve been inspired by generous caring people, and one of our own, to take necessary action to improve.

In the past two years, our Medora Wish endowment has raised $1.4 million dollars. This program has two objectives; to fund additional “Kids Free” days in Medora and fund inspirational trips to Medora for people who could not otherwise experience it for physical, mental, or monetary limitations. We work with the Anne Carlsen Center to reward deserving recipients to fund their vacations to Medora. By observing these Medora Wish recipients it opened our eyes to improvements we need to make.

Rainann Bull, Anne Carlsen Resident & Medora Wish Recipient

Our employee, Colton Keightley, wrote a book with the title “The Worst Thing You Can Do is Nothing”, a phrase you may recognize from Theodore Roosevelt. If you just read the accomplishments of this young man who’s spending his second summer with us, you’d never know he suffered from a debilitating disorder. Colton lives with Cerebral Palsy but his energy is infectious! Outside of working, Colton also enjoys staying physically fit through weight training. He loves going to our employee gym but he thought it could be better. Colton donated the proceeds from his book launch, $2,800 and found two of his friends to chip in $1,000 of their own, to add new equipment to the gym. Colton’s generosity inspired us!

Colton Keightley, TRMF Employee & Published Author

Our Partners

To help us raise our standard, we reached out to our partners.

We worked with Indiana State University to employ summer interns in Medora for students working towards degrees in non-profit management. Through this relationship we met Dr. Schamleffel, who holds a PHD in Recreation, Sport, and Tourism Management with a focus in youth and community development. He is the Director and Founder of Driven Strategic LLC., that offers consulting, coaching and training for non-profits, parks & recreation, youth groups and human services. In 2018, we invited Dr. Schamleffel to speak to our executive management team, to give us his observations about accessibility in Medora. His son lives with severe disabilities including epilepsy, autism, physical limitations and is non-verbal. Dr. Schamleffel expanded our thinking about disabilities and unique solutions.

The Anne Carlsen Center provides services for people with a wide range of disabilities and their mission is to make the world a more inclusive place where independence is a gift to all. The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) and the Anne Carlsen Center share two mutual members of our Board of Directors who made the connection for us. The Anne Carlsen Center provided specialists in three areas; vision, assistive technology and physical therapy to complete an accessibility assessment of our current lodging properties, restaurants and attractions.

Who

We knew approximately 60% of our 750,000 annual visitors to Medora are from North Dakota. We collected data from the State of North Dakota and with recommendations from our partners, we developed a matrix for inclusion to better serve our guests.

11% of our population in North Dakota is disabled and mobility impairment is the most prevalent disability. Our matrix of inclusion is visitors who are elderly, veterans and families who visit Medora with mild to moderate mobility and sensory disabilities.

The Numbers

  • Annual visitation to historic Medora and Theodore Roosevelt National Park is 750,000 people.
  • The Medora Musical’s average annual attendance is 118,000 and 53% of our attendees are over the age of 60.
  • In ND in 2012, among the six types of disabilities identified in the ACS, the highest prevalence rate was for “Ambulatory Disability,” at 5.2 percent. *Data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).
  • Veterans make up 8% of North Dakota’s population and 22% of veteran’s have a service connected disability.

Our Strategy

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” -- THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Efforts thus far:

  • In 2016, we completed renovation of the historic Old Town Hall where four shows play throughout the summer season. This project included new handicap accessible bathrooms, a new entry with wheelchair ramp entrance, and new seating. We funded this project with $600,000 in donor gifts.
  • In 2017, we expanded our restrooms at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, home of the Medora Musical, to include additional handicap restrooms and added a separate family restroom. One family donated 65% of the $250,000 project and TRMF funded the balance.
  • In 2019, TRMF broke ground on Point to Point Park, a new attraction for families in Medora. We installed Manitou, the Point to Point Zipline. It’s design was chosen for its accessible friendly features.
  • In 2020, we opened our renovated mini golf course as part of Point to Point Park called Little Bully Pulpit. With this updated design our new front nine holes are now ADA accessible.

Our greatest opportunity for impact of the Access Medora initiative is to improve accessibility at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre by building a high capacity elevator.

The Burning Hills Amphitheatre is home to the Medora Musical. This musical show is performed live and outside every night of the summer. It has a 56 year tradition of telling stories of Theodore Roosevelt’s life in the Badlands, patriotism and the spirit of the great American west. Right now, the Medora Musical is the most important economic engine for TRMF and is very important to the livelihood of the community of Medora.

The Amphitheatre’s unique rugged Badlands location is it’s best feature, but does present accessibility difficulties. The escalator was our first improvement made in 1991 for entry into the Amphitheatre however, it is not ideal for visitors with slow movements, reaction time, and poor balance. In addition the escalator is not a safe option for guests dependent on walkers, wheel chairs, or other assistive mobility devices.

Nearly all guests incidents at the Amphitheatre involve people with mobility and disability challenges.

Guests with mobility and disability challenges depend on golf carts to enter and exit the Amphitheatre. These carts use a shared walkway that was designed for pedestrian traffic and becomes too congested when shared with carts. Once these carts reach the end of the walkway guests offload, then load into a four-person elevator before reaching accessible seating. The guest experiences the same process to exit the Amphitheatre. On a busy night, the wait to exit the Amphitheatre can be as long as 45-60 minutes, ruining the guest experience.

Our Solution

A bridge walkway that leads to a dual vertical elevator dedicated for guests with mobility and disability challenges. The overall goal with this solution is to provide a safer, quicker, more enjoyable access to the Amphitheatre.

Thanks to a generous gift of $1 Million from the Engelstad Foundation to Access Medora we will be breaking ground on the dual vertical elevator in 2021!

Interested in Access Medora and the initiatives we shared above? Visit with one of our Development Team Members by calling 701-223-4800 to see how you can get involved.