A wish granted at Winter Park Resort: Missouri family enjoys trip with help from National Sports Center for the Disabled
In early January, a family traveled to Winter Park Resort to enjoy a few days on the mountain. This trip had a deeper meaning than most ski vacations as 8-year-old Gage Wingo took his first ski lesson with the National Sports Center for the Disabled to make his wish with Make-A-Wish Colorado come true.
Gage is the son of Hannah and Evan Wingo and has severe epilepsy. After they traveled up from Springfield, Missouri, Gage’s adventure at the resort began on Jan. 5 when he and his mom arrived at the National Sports Center for the Disabled office to get set up with an adaptive sit ski, which allowed him to safely sit in a seat with shock absorption and harnesses on the mountain.
Gage was all smiles, even before he got on the slopes.
Hannah was ready to get on the mountain as well. Both she and Evan would ski with Gage. Gage’s brother, 6-year-old Caleb, was also taking his first-ever ski lesson that day.
“Caleb’s a little nervous,” Hannah said with a laugh. “I think we all are! I stayed up late last night, (wondering) ‘how’s it gonna go?’”
Gage’s grins suggested he might be more excited than nervous. Hannah explained that this would be his first time in a sit ski. The last time he was in Winter Park, he was 1 year old. She and her husband were both beginner skiers who had learned from friends. Heading down the slopes would be a novel experience for the family, but National Sports Center for the Disabled instructors were there to help ensure they had an awesome day.
Instructors Jordan Pittman and Ash Lamoreaux helped Gage into his sit ski, which they would guide on the slopes. Hannah got into her skis and the four loaded the lift just as the clouds lifted and the sun came out to bless their day.
After Pittman, Lamoreaux, Hannah and Gage explored the mountain together, they met up with Evan and Caleb to finish out their ski experience at Winter Park.
“They said they had an incredible time today! They had so much fun,” said Kim Easton, CEO of the center, after the Wingos returned to base. “Working with Gage and his family and making a connection for someone to love the great outdoors is always incredibly rewarding.”
The National Sports Center for the Disabled was created in 1970, when a Winter Park Resort ski instructor embarked on a mission to teach 23 children with amputations how to ski. As the center grew, they began collaborating with Make-A-Wish Colorado to help even more children.
“We love to partner with the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Easton said. “Part of the reason (the partnership) works so well because our whole mantra is about finding a solution, finding an adaptation that’s going to work for anyone that wants to get out there and have a mountain experience.”
The center makes wishes come true for families throughout the season. Easton explained that the center’s highly trained staff and state-of-the-art equipment make them a top choice for Make-A-Wish families like the Wingos across the country. Children are given a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Winter Park Resort, traveling miles from their home and hospitals to be welcomed by NSCD staff.
“Every wish is truly amazing,” said Jennifer Getsch, Chief Missions Officer for Make-A-Wish Colorado. “The amount of people that … get involved and truly make every wish just a magical experience for these kiddos.”
Local state Make-A-Wish chapters coordinated to bring the Wingos to Winter Park.
“We assist any chapter that wants to send their kids to Colorado and help them grant those wishes here,” Getsch said, adding that their chapter is planning to grant 420 to 450 wishes to Colorado children.
“No wish is the same; they’re all unique and we really try … to make sure that we’ve really captured the heart of every child’s wish,” she said.
Other wishes children have been given include experiencing snow for the first time, receiving their own puppy and visiting Disney World.
“A lot of those (children) will go to other states, and we’ll ask those chapters to help us,” Getsch said. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the support of community partners, without the support of donors and volunteers.”
Getsch added that Make-A-Wish welcomes support from community members all over Colorado, including Grand County. Those ready to help grant wishes for Colorado children can volunteer their time, donate, become a corporate partner or Wish Hero, or create a fundraiser.
“We grant wishes to kiddos probably right there in the community of Winter Park and people don’t even know it,” she said.
Easton explained that people of all walks of life and ability accomplish their dreams through the National Sports Center for the Disabled. Elite Paralympians compete in ski racing through the program, nonprofit groups such as the High Fives Foundation participate in camps, and families like the Wingos find joy in learning to ski together. All these individuals realize their true potential by reaching their summit.
“One of our core beliefs is that … everyone is able and anything is possible,” said Easton. “Rethinking ability is really what we’re about.”
Those interested in learning more about the National Sports Center for the Disabled and Make-A-Wish Colorado can visit NSCD.org and Wish.org/colorado.
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