In 1970, Winter Park ski instructor Hal O’Leary raised his hand to volunteer to lead a ski lesson for a group of amputee children from Denver Children’s Hospital. That one action changed his life and the lives of so many others: what began as a tiny operation in a broom closet at Winter Park Resort has since transformed into the National Sports Center for the Disabled, a program that provides more than 3,000 people per year with the opportunity to learn and enjoy both recreational and competitive outdoor activities.
Last Sunday, with temperatures reaching a balmy negative 14 degrees Fahrenheit, the OutThere Colorado team shadowed a half-day monoski lesson with two full-time instructors, Ronnie Maidens and Briana Helling, and their student, Kaitlin Wanberg, a 27-year old Cherry Creek High School science teacher. The cold temperatures, however, didn’t seem to slow down the instructors or Kaitlin. After fitting Kaitlin into her monoski, we followed the crew (which included Kaitlin’s husband, John!) out to the snow and up the chairlift. The instructors chased Kaitlin down the mountain as she sped ahead and instructed and encouraged when needed. We saw this program truly live out its mission statement of ‘enabling the human spirit through therapeutic sports and recreation’ through the spirit of the instructors, NSCD staff, and family members as they encouraged students to do something beyond their own perceived ability.
And what was most striking was that they all wanted to be there. From the 1200 volunteers, to the handful of staff, to the thousands of clients that walk through the NSCD doors, there is a level of drive and passion for the sport and the life it brings each person who tries an adaptive sport. Join us through a series of pictures for just one of the thousands of NSCD Winter Park stories.
In order for the NSCD to continue providing these life altering experiences for those with disabilities they are in need of donations and volunteers. To inquire about giving your time or donations, see the NSCD website at http://nscd.org/donate/.