History of Beyond the Limits

  • In the Spring of 1989, Harlan Eagle, a physical education teacher at Mardela Middle and High School in the Wicomico County School System, was inspired to create a Project Adventure Program. He began by proposing to the principal that the physical education program incorporate into the curriculum trips to the local ropes course in Cambridge, Maryland.  With the endorsement of his plan, the seeds for "Beyond the Limits" were sown.  Soon after, a small grant was awarded which allowed the new program to train facilitators and to begin building its own ropes course.  At this point, the vision for "Beyond the Limits” had not extended its scope beyond the physical education department of Mardela Middle and High School.           

    Claire Spillane, a social worker with experience in Adventure Based Counseling, moved to the Eastern Shore in the fall of 1989.  She learned about the budding program while talking to her future sister in-law, Sandy Greer, a key administrator in opening doors for Beyond the Limits.  At this point, Spillane began to work with Eagle on the program.  Together they planned the first phase of the ropes course.  Spillane used her knowledge and experience to train Eagle to Facilitate groups using Adventure Based Counseling.  The program was expanded to include other teachers in January of 1990 when the first teacher training was held.         

    Spillane incorporated the students at the Alternative School into the program in the spring of 1990.  At this point Cindy Shifler, the Drug Prevention Coordinator for Wicomico County, learned about the program from Harlan Eagle while attending a SHOP ( Students Helping Other People) convention with him.  She showed a definite interest in the program after observing Spillane’s work and preceded to write, and be awarded, a state grant for the program.  This grant created an official two-year job for Spillane working with high risk county students using Adventure Based Counseling.  It also allowed the program to further the work on the ropes course and obtain training for the facilitators through Project Adventure.  Thus, Spillane and Shifler officially began the Beyond the Limits program: at the same time, Eagle and a group of dedicated teachers continued the Project Adventure program at Mardela with the physical education classes. In the spring of 1991, Oliver Johnson became the first of hundreds of volunteers to help out with the new program.      

    During the 1991-92 school year, Spillane was focusing her work with Bennett Middle Schools high-risk students.  Bud Elzey, also a physical education teacher, became interested in the program and began to assist Spillane.  He expanded the program by including the general school population in a format which was more similar to that used by Eagle at Mardela.

    Harlan Eagle filled a full time position with the program for the 1992-93 school year, which was funded by the state grant.  Under this position he was able to expand Beyond the Limits to encompass the combination of the program he had begun with the physical education classes at Mardela with that which Spillane and Elzey had begun at Bennett Middle School.  The following year, the Board of Education sponsored Eagle's position as well as a second position, which Bud Elzey filled.  Together Elzey and Eagle were to continue to expand the program.

     To further the program, in 1994 Beyond the Limits made an agreement with Salisbury University’s physical education department exchanging the use of the ropes course for the use of Salisbury U’s indoor facilities, including that of the climbing wall.  From this point, Beyond the Limits has continued to grow and develop rapidly.  In 1997, a number of new low and high elements were added to the ropes course, curriculum was completed and a new assistant facilitator position was funded by the Board of Education.  Scott Taylor was chosen for this position and in 1998 the position was upgraded to facilitator.   Since 1998, Beyond the Limits has expanded and provided the opportunity for thousands of students in the Wicomico County School System and throughout Delmarva to experience a day with the Beyond the Limits program.