In December 2019, Luke 5 Adventures ‘hit the trails’ with their first hike making the impossible possible for mobility-challenged people to enjoy the off-roads in nature. Luke 5 Founder and President Kevin Schwieger, who at the time was a pastor at Grace Chapel in Mason, was part of the volunteer group who hiked that day with fellow church member Debi Rosen. Debi, who had lost her ability to walk years earlier, was the inspiration for the ministry of Luke 5 Adventures as well as the ‘Rosie,’ the name given to the innovative one-wheeled all-terrain wheelchair used on the hikes.
Kevin relates, “Our world is more accessible, which we applaud, but our focus is introducing the impossible to those with mobility challenges. Luke 5’s ministry takes individuals with disabilities on off-road hikes to experience the 99% of God’s extraordinary creation that is beyond their typical accessibility. Our tagline is ‘hiking with those who can’t hike themselves.’”
Mason + Deerfield Lifestyle first introduced Luke 5 to the community in July 2020 when they had completed just a few hikes but were beginning a partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. That partnership led to numerous other organizations and churches requesting their unique services and increased the number of hikes from 120 in 2020 to 275 in 2021.
The growth of community partnership events enables Luke 5 to maximize volunteer time and the number of hikers they can serve. They now have exceeded 800 hikes, including about 100 hikes completed in eight new chapters around the country.
Kevin explains, “In the summer of 2021 we saw another opportunity for growth when the Christian Broadcasting Network did a story on Luke 5 that was viewed by millions. Organizations began calling from around the country asking how they could begin a similar program. We grew nationally in 2022-2023 with the launching of eight additional chapters across the U.S. that operate under the leadership and policies of our local headquarters but raise their own funds and coordinate their own hikes.”
Vice President Whitney Blackston knows the operational side of Luke 5 but also the personal side. Her daughter, 10-year-old Emerson, is a hike participant. Emerson is blind, hearing impaired, nonverbal and mobility challenged, but finds a way to connect while on hikes. Whitney shares, “We explain Biblical truths to her through creation. On hikes, she encounters God, by dipping her hands in streams, feeling the gentle wind or the sturdiness of rocks.”
Whitney adds, “These hikes are life-changing for Emerson and our whole family. We can dream again. Beyond the challenges of family outings, there is often a feeling of isolation. We can go places, but an outing with Luke 5 also adds a loving community and togetherness with the volunteers who come along to help, eliminating that feeling of being alone in the world.”
The concept of community was also important in naming the ministry. Whitney explains, “People ask about the name Luke 5 Adventures. It emerged from the Biblical account of a group of friends who carried their paralyzed friend across town to Jesus for healing, together overcoming many hindrances along the way.”
The Mason headquarters continues to provide individual hikes and partner events, but the staff also works on launching and assisting other chapters and partnerships and pioneering new opportunities such as their ‘hike of a lifetime’ and hiking internationally.
Luke 5 Adventures offers many ways to be involved. Volunteers (called ‘sherpas’) are needed on the hikes and off-trail offering hospitality at the base camp. Individual and corporate donations help to provide their services for free, purchase Rosies and other equipment, and allow staff to research and develop new opportunities. Whitney notes, “Monetary gifts allow us to expand dreams and multiply miracles!”
Reflecting on making the impossible possible, Kevin shares, “While hiking on a trip in Israel, we came to a sign that said ‘End of Wheelchair Accessibility.’ I had to chuckle as I thought, ‘the end of an accessible trail is where the Luke 5 trail begins.’”
To schedule a hike, volunteer or donate please visit Luke5Adventures.org or contact Kevin or Whitney directly.
Checking in with Local Nonprofits
Claw Machines for a Cause
Three machines are placed at Sonder Brewing, Cincy Sammys and Mason Community Center with one coming to Third Eye Brewing Company this summer. Each raises funds for a local charity.
Love Like JJ
Provided comfort bears to Mason Fire Department to give children during traumatic experiences, donated 100 Easter Baskets the last three years to families in need and offered holiday meal boxes to Mason students’ families to have over winter break.
Live Like Maya:
They have grown to not only serve families at St. Jude and Cincinnati Children's Hospital but also families at hospitals across the U.S. They now support Ronald McDonald House and awarded their first large grant totaling $50,000 to a pediatric leukemia researcher in Seattle.
Shine Like Sable:
They have given over $100,000 to Joshua’s Place for weekend Shine Packs that feed food-insecure children in the Mason school district and provided two service dogs to support MECC students.
Women Walking West (W3):
W3 has served 145 mentees providing them with assistance to be successful and productive in school and life with the help of more than 100 volunteers. They have 25 mentors and 23 mentees from the Mason area.
Building Blocks for Kids (BB4K):
BB4K implemented four new programs to serve children and families living with disabilities: providing an important piece of equipment to 50-60 families yearly in partnership with a local furniture maker, hosting a free dance for dads and their special needs children, sending 30-32 families to a special weekend camp each year and collaborating on a fall farm event.
“Our world is more accessible, which we applaud, but our focus is introducing the impossible to those with mobility challenges. Our tagline is ‘hiking with those who can’t hike themselves."