Kristen Lodge: Texas skiers enjoy a Winter Park Resort ski week at NSCD
In late January, 14 children, doctors, and volunteers from the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas arrived in Winter Park for four days of skiing with National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD). Jonathan Dallas, 17, from Waco, Texas, arrived for his third year skiing at Winter Park Resort as part of the Scottish Rite program. He skied four days and the best part of his ski day, he said, was “having the freedom to go wherever in such a big place.”This year his goal was to get to the top of the mountain, the highest point.”The first day we got to the top and the view was amazing,” he said.Dallas skies on a 3-track, which is one ski and two outriggers with forearm crutches and ski tips mounted to the bases. He recalls falling frequently his first year with the program but wanting to figure it all out and come back again.At home, Dallas is involved with his high school basketball team as their manager and stays in touch with other participants in the program. He graduates in June and plans to attend college to study biomedical engineering. The NSCD ski program helped him realize that he can do anything he wants, like skiing, but he just has to change the way he goes about accomplishing it. Rebekah Tate, 16, from Arlington, Texas, skied her first runs at Winter Park and the NSCD program, after skiing in a similar program at Breckenridge. She admitted being a bit nervous since her parents didn’t come with her, and she only just met the group a week before leaving. Tate also uses the 3-track ski. On the first day she fell a lot and was sore at night. After a day on the slopes, the group relaxes in their condos, eats a group meal, and watches ski videos from their day, she said. Despite missing a week of school, Tate said it was worth it, and she hopes to come back next year. Her goal will be to get off the lift by herself without the lift stopping. And, to ski a blue trail.Tate is a sophomore and is an officer in the Key Club, a service organization that raises money for causes such as juvenile diabetes and epilepsy. Chief of Staff Emeritus for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Tony Herring, started the program for amputees 31 years ago. He learned the Denver Children’s hospital had a ski program that brought amputees to the slopes. He started raising money for the program, and now it is funded entirely through donations. American Airlines provided the air transportation, Herring said. “Skiing is a great activity they can excel in. What the kids don’t realize is they are getting out of their shell,” he said. “Many are from small towns where they may be the only person with a prosthetic. Suddenly they are with 14 others, sharing stories, some about incidents where their prosthetic falls off. Making it not such a big deal.” The program also helps the hospital volunteer staff about life in the real world. “It teaches us how to teach them how to be better equipped in their new world. It’s not really about skiing.”Herring receives feedback from past participants about how the program has changed lives.”They tell me ‘it was a turning point in my life’ and ‘my amputation is not going to slow me down, I’m going to achieve everything I want to achieve.'””The program here is so good and so positive. The staff seems to say, ‘we will find something you’re going to be able to do and you’re going to have a good time.'”
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