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These days, the Loomis family can't imagine their lives without Northeast Passage. Six months after the accident, Jim visited the organization's offices in the basement of Hewitt Hall, brainstorming with founder Jill Gravink '86 and assistant director Tom Carr '97 about various activities Nate could try. Nate himself was not entirely sold on the group's offerings until Carr persuaded him to check out quad rugby—a fast-moving, four-on-four wheelchair sport, complete with trash talk and plenty of contact and team camaraderie. "I went to watch a practice, and from the moment I saw it, from the first wheelchair collision, I was hooked," Nate says. "I knew right away that was going to be the sport for me."

Courtesy photo
The Loomis family on Nantucket, circa 1990. From left: Jeremy, Nate, Jim, and Anne.

Anne was less convinced. Aware of the sport's physicality and anxious about the prospect of his getting hurt again, Nate's mother took a full six months to embrace her son's new passion. But today quad rugby and Northeast Passage are a full family affair. Nate is a starting defenseman for the NEP Wildcats "A" squad, an intimidator who wears #13 and plays with a competitive intensity. Anne is the team mother, baking cookies and cheering at every game and tournament, with Jeremy and his wife, Kelsey, typically at her side. And Jim is the team's equipment manager, fixing battered chairs on the fly.

Jim has also served as the chairman of Northeast Passage's advisory board, and he and Anne are the organization's leading financial supporters, although those are two titles he is unlikely to divulge. Indeed, if the family can't imagine their lives without Northeast Passage, the organization feels the same way about them. In recognition of their support, Jim and Anne Loomis received the UNH Foundation's Hubbard Family Award for Service to Philanthropy last September.

Of course, it is impossible for the Loomises not to sometimes imagine what their life would look like now if it hadn't been for Nate's accident, but they are the type of people who count their blessings, not their misfortunes. In 2007, Nate earned a bachelor's degree in English with honors from UNH; now 32, he lives independently in downtown Durham, to shorten his trips to the Whittemore Center for rugby practices and workouts, and works for Jeremy's company, Nerd-1-1, an IT consulting company.

It is Jeremy who perhaps best captures what it means to be one of the "Loomi" and how the family's closeness has helped them weather this particular storm. A number of years before Nate's accident, he recalls, the family was on the last day of a weeklong sailing trip when they were socked in by a heavy fog, unable to visually navigate a treacherous stretch of the Maine coast. "My dad didn't panic, though," Jeremy says. "He just kind of looked around and said, 'Well, this is going to be a challenge.' He gave everyone a job to do, kept us all talking, and we just took it one step at a time." Working as a team, the Loomises picked their way through a maze of islands and arrived safely at their home marina unscathed. For two preteen boys, the experience was thrilling. Little did any of them know, however, it was also an important practice exercise for their life ahead, for a test they would pass, as a team, with flying colors. ~

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