Grand Lake native returns in search of gold
November 18, 2010
Grand Lake native Kelly Croft is training for an eventual spot on the U.S. Paralympics team as she embarks on her first season with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) competition program.
“I grew up skiing,” the 1980 Middle Park graduate said of riding the school bus every Friday through her school years to hit the slopes with fellow students. “I’ve always been athletic.” Croft also competed in high school basketball and was a little league coach during her formative years in Grand County.
She then moved to Washington state to help special needs individuals prosper in the work place doing jobs that offered better pay and benefits.
Then one day at work in 1997, Croft was working with an autistic client who was employed at a glass manufacturing plant. “She was doing really good, but she kept taking people’s lunches,” Croft said. Croft was teaching the young woman about lunch etiquette when a sliding glass door that was propped against the wall fell on Croft and severed her foot.
The accident resulted in the amputation of her foot, followed by a series of “revisions” and surgeries over a 10-year period. Her leg is now amputated below her knee, and the possibility still exists that it could be amputated further.
“I laid in bed depressed, thinking about what was the best way to kill myself,” Croft said about her life directly after the accident. “Then I thought, that’s not me. I’ve always been a fighter. I had to find a goal. I had to find a purpose.”
Croft began intensive physical therapy. Two years ago, her husband Greg Croft lost is job of 25 years, so the couple decided to move back to Grand County, where Croft could revisit her passion for skiing. Greg Croft landed a job driving busses for Winter Park Resort.
“When they cut your leg off, it’s like your confidence goes with it,” Kelly Croft said. “And joining NSCD has helped me get a lot of that confidence back, and it’s helped me have a healthier life – a lot healthier,” she said.
Croft’s days are now filled with training with the NSCD team, working out at the Grand Park Community Recreation Center to prepare for the season.
“It’s good for me, really good for me. The physical aspect is the healthiest thing for me,” she said.
Croft is asking the community for help as she pursues her dream of ski racing.
According to Erik Peterson, director of the NSCD Competition Center, NSCD athletes are expected to raise funds to cover the costs of coaching, training, travel costs as well as living expenses as they devote themselves to a season of training and competition.