NSCD hosts Paralympic experience for disabled vets
The National Sports Center for the Disabled hosted the 6th Annual Paralympic Experience for Veterans on Wednesday, welcoming nearly 50 veterans from around the state to participate in a number of Paralympic activities.
Veterans gathered for a free day of cross-country skiing, a Nordic biathlon, curling, sled hockey and snowshoeing at the Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA in Granby as well as at the IceBox Ice Rink in Fraser. The event is meant to encourage disabled veterans to keep an active lifestyle and introduce them to new opportunities in the winter sports arena.
“I’m from the city and I just wanted to get back into the mountains, back into the snow,” said Gilbert Martinez, an Army veteran of seven years. “I was born and raised up here. The [NSCD] is really great. They do good work, and it’s just nice to be back up in the mountains again. It’s beautiful.”
The event comes courtesy of a $20,000 donation via AT&T’s Thank Our Heroes campaign, along with a strong partnership between the NSCD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which helped sign people up and transport them from Denver to Grand County.
The day also comes as part of a concerted effort on the part of the NSCD to open up new possibilities to disabled veterans. Along with the Paralympic experience, the NSCD is also offering a free lesson to veterans at Winter Park this winter, and half off of all subsequent lessons throughout the season.
“We really try to encourage and build programming that creates multiple attendance,” said Kim Easton, president and CEO of the NSCD. “Today is about getting them exposed to something, and hopefully they’ll get excited about something we’re doing today. It creates a community for them, and a support group of other people who are trying new things.”
The event found its roots six years ago with a small bus of veterans from Denver, but has steadily grown over the years and has become a valuable asset in drawing veterans to take part in not only winter sports, but the NSCD’s summer programs.
For most, however, the draw is still a free ticket back to the mountains.
“I really enjoyed coming up here, snowshoeing and getting to take a few shots,” said 20-year Army veteran Sage Faulker, who attended the event with his wife and fellow veteran, Lexi. “It kind of helps you understand what it’s like for Paralympians. I really appreciate it, and I think it does a lot for us veterans. I’m looking forward to doing it again.”
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