Paralympians offer inspiration, lessons at Loon MountainBy KATHLEEN BAGLIO HUMPHREYS
Special to the Union Leader March 27. 2014 8:02PM
LINCOLN — Paralympians and New England Disabled Sports are giving away their time and experience this weekend to offer the experience of skiing and snowboarding to local children and adults with disabilities.
More than 100 people with disabilities are expected to participate in the three-day event at Loon Mountain, which runs through Sunday. Of the hundred, 50 people with will be hitting the slopes for the first time.
Friay’s event will feature guest speakers and a dinner at the Mountain Club at Loon. Guests will hear how other injured people took action and what changed their lives to help keep them off the sidelines. The motivational speakers are: Paralympian Gold Medalist Victoria Arlen, Paralympian Medalist Andy Parr, Paralympian Anjali Forber-Pratt, and National Sailing Champion Sarah Everhart-Skeels. Lisa Hatz, vocational rehabilitation director of New Hampshire, and Kirk Bauer, executive director of DSUSA, will also be on hand.
Saturday and Sunday’s programs will consist of four two-hour, on-snow lessons to give people new to the sport some experience.
The event is hosted by New England Disabled Sports, which works to make a difference in the lives of people living with disabilities and helps them enjoy their first on-snow experience. The organization is a nationally recognized program that provides year-round adaptive sports instruction for adult and children with physical or cognitive disabilities.
Prior to the lessons, New England Disabled Sports received profiles on the individuals participating and have the correct adaptive equipment from stand-up to ski-down equipment, head sets for the visually impaired, and instructors who know sign language for hearing-impaired skiers.
After evaluations, volunteer coaches will take their students on the beginner slope for instructions each morning and each afternoon throughout the weekend to work on basic lessons and goals.
“This program is to let the participants know they are living with a disability but they are not disabled. With the right instructions, love and compassion, they don’t have to sit on the sidelines, they can be in the game. They can ski with friends and family,” said Jack Daly, New England Disabled Sports operations manager.
“These are individuals living with a disability. It does work but it takes different types of equipment,” Daly said.
New England Disabled Sports has trained instructors and equipment for winter activates that include: racing programs, cross-country skiing, winter biathlon, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and snowboarding. During the warmer months, the group offers waterskiing, cycling, paddling, golfing, surfing, scuba, sailing, hiking and camping, summer biathlon, triathlon and fishing lessons.
Volunteers from all walks of life provide lessons. New instructors have to pass a ski test and attend five-days of training. After the first year, volunteers need to continue with three-days of training each year encompassing all disciplines.
New England Disabled Sports is based out of Loon Mountain but it also runs the adaptive ski program at Bretton Woods.
The event at Loon Mountain is made possible by the Arbella Insurance Foundation, which donated $50,000 to the New England Disabled Sports as part of a total of 25 donations totaling $1.25 million to celebrate its 25th anniversary.For more information visit www.nedisabledsports.org.