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Community leader finds dream job

November 19, 2018 GMT

As if it were staged, a man at ImagineIF Library in Columbia Falls presents volunteer Naomi Morrison with a gift bag as she walks through the entrance, thanking her for “all that she does.”

And as it turns out, all that Morrison has done and continues to do for the Flathead Valley and beyond, is quite extensive. In terms of what she can and cannot do, it seems the latter isn’t even part of her vocabulary.

Morrison, a Connecticut native who first landed in Montana in 2005, is a journalist, marketing specialist, philanthropist, mother, wife and outdoors enthusiast. She is also now the first director of development for Dream Adaptive Recreation, a Whitefish-based nonprofit that provides year-round outdoor adaptive recreational opportunities for individuals struggling with permanent or temporary disabilities.

For Morrison, joining the team at Dream Adaptive has brought a sense of completion to her life’s work.

“I really look at this organization as the one I’m going to stay with until I retire. This is exactly what I’ve been looking to do,” Morrison said. “I’ve been searching for a long time for a small nonprofit where my skill set can find a home.”

Morrison’s new position is the most recent, and hopefully final, headline on her lengthy resume that teems with more than two decades of diverse work experience.

Off and on since 1997, she utilized her journalism degree and launched into the public relations and advertising side of media. She eventually landed at the Daily Inter Lake’s Flathead Business Journal, where her efforts as an advertising representative more than doubled the publication’s gross monthly income.

Morrison’s stints in business also fill out her resume. In the Flathead Valley alone, she worked as a community relations coordinator for North Valley Hospital for six years. Two years later, in 2016, her passion for the outdoors merged with her philanthropic pursuits at Glacier National Park Conservancy, where she developed partner relationships.

“I like to say I am educated in journalism and self-taught in business,” Morrison said.

Her time at the conservancy segued nicely to her job at Dream Adaptive where her passion for remaining active and helping others will continue to define her career.

According to Morrison, the talents she brings to the table are the perfect complement to those of her teammates, especially Julie Tickle, the executive director who was quick to pick Morrison out of the stack of applicants.

“I’m not going to be humble. We are an awesome team,” Morrison said. “I’ve realized it’s not just about finding that home but finding that team. I like knowing that together we can provide what’s necessary to continue the success of Dream [Adaptive].”

Track record in business aside, Morrison’s decision to pursue a career in outdoor recreation was also influenced by her grandmother, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia about five years ago.

Following the diagnosis, she adopted the role of temporary caretaker when she visited her grandmother prior to her passing nearly two years ago. Before her grandmother’s condition became too advanced, Morrison would dance with her to her favorite records and take strolls around the block.

“My grandma was a big influence who also made me more prepared for this job,” Morrison said. “It’s not fair that I get to get out and recreate and do whatever I want to do when there are so many others who can’t.”

Morrison and her husband ingrained the importance of an active lifestyle into their two children from a young age. The family takes frequent rafting trips, attends as many outdoor musical festivals as possible and are ambitious hikers.

Others Morrison credits for her successes include teachers from elementary school up through college, supervisors at the North Valley Hospital and, of course, her parents.

“Without my mom’s compassion and my dad’s business sense I wouldn’t be here,” Morrison said. “They taught me the importance and value of focus.”

At Dream Adaptive, Morrison’s initial focus will turn to garnering more local funding so the organization can rely less on grants. More funding will allow the organization to expand its current programs which include ski sessions, paddle-boarding, rafting and more.

With winter around the corner, Dream Adaptive is entering one of its busiest seasons, when it sends about 1,000 permanently or temporarily disabled individuals through a ski program at Whitefish Mountain Resort - a program made possible by way of more than 150 volunteers.

“Our goal is to allow these people to feel independent while they recreate and make them feel confident and try new things and our equipment allows that,” Morrison said.

Morrison, an avid skier herself, said she can’t wait to launch into Dream Adaptive’s new season. It’s an opportunity she considers it an “honor to be a part of.”

Reporter Kianna Gardner may be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com.