Grant Spotlight: Blue Lotus Farm & Recreational Center, West Bend, WI

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Interview with Michael Larson, Executive Director

Blue Lotus Farm

Appreciative visitors to Blue Lotus Farm & Recreational Center

The Blue Lotus Farm & Recreational Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making nature accessible for people with disabilities and other significant life challenges. The center is located on 64 beautiful acres of forest meadow and wetland near West Bend, Wisconsin. Blue Lotus was founded by the Bliffert family 20 years ago and they are still actively involved in the organization today.

According to Michael Larson, Executive Director, “We partner with almost 50 organizations that come out for a day of summer camp experiences. We serve distinct groups of people including those with physical and cognitive disabilities, people dealing with chronic or terminal illnesses and people in memory care, people experiencing economic hardship, and survivors of abuse and trauma.”

Blue Lotus partners with organizations that bring their constituents out for a day of canoeing, kayaking and paddle boating. Other recreational activates include fishing, biking, swimming in the pool, having a picnic, playing lawn sports or simply sitting and enjoying nature.

“The whole goal is to make nature accessible for people who historically have been marginalized from these kinds of experiences. We have a variety of accessibility features, like handicap accessible docks, boardwalks, bicycles and more. There are so many things that many of us who live in Wisconsin love doing and take for granted — we try to lower barriers of entry and make outdoor recreation as accessible as possible,” Larson added

Although Blue Lotus only charges the groups about a third or a quarter of what it costs to run the programs many are still not able to afford their visit. With the support of Wispact and others, Blue Lotus is able to reduce or eliminate the barriers of entry and provide the inclusivity necessary to support their mission.

There are countless stories of how visitors to Blue Lotus have benefited from their opportunity to experience what many of us take for granted. “We had a gentleman who was essentially non-verbal. His wife suggested he try fishing and shortly after he caught a Bluegill and began telling stores about growing up fishing and the big ones that got away. His wife is sitting behind him in tears. She said she hadn’t heard him talk this much in years. It’s something about the experience of being outside that kind of unlocked it for him,” Larson said.

Larson is quick to point out the important role their volunteers play in making Blue Lotus a special place to visit. “We have a few dozen volunteers that come out and work with the groups. They’ll help people fish, help people get in the boat or just sit and talk to people. Sometimes the seniors who visit just want to sit by the pond and admire the beauty and like just sitting next to a volunteer and share their memories,” Larson added.

For those interested you can follow the Blue Lotus Center on Facebook and Instagram or checkout their website

The Wispact Inc. Foundation was established in 2021 and provides charitable grants to non-profit organizations to improve the lives of persons with disabilities across Wisconsin.