By Andy Knight, President of the Waterville Valley Foundation
For the last few years, I have admired the efforts of both the students and the staff of the Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports program. If you ski at Waterville Valley, you’ve certainly seen them, too: instructors in royal blue coats flanking — coaching, sometimes coaxing, often hurrying to keep up with — their students all over the mountain.
Adaptive clients run the spectrum from young children on the autism scale to young adults with cerebral palsy to wounded warriors finding their way back from a war zone and reconnecting with life, though all too often a life profoundly changed. The volunteer instructors of Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports are carefully trained in techniques to support and coach people with all forms of special needs. The program is very fortunate to have the guidance of nationally recognized adaptive snow sports expert Kathy Chandler, and the enthusiastic stewardship of operations director Kim Sawka. It is also incredibly lucky to have a body of stalwart volunteers who give freely of their time, energy, and devotion year after year, making the program possible.
As a parent of two “normal” teens, I can tell you few things are more satisfying than having happy, tired children. This theme resonates in so many conversations with the parents and loved ones of Adaptive clients as well. Through the program, their loved ones find a special kind of engagement that makes their hearts — and quite often, the students themselves — sing. When their days on the snow are done, they are tired but happy, deeply satisfied, and ready to take on the challenges of their lives refreshed.
What defines people with special needs is not their special needs, but rather that they are people: people with hopes, fears and dreams, and an undiminished capacity for enjoying life. Whether physically, developmentally, or emotionally challenged, Adaptive clients all find something special on the mountain; freedom, joy, independence, accomplishment, friendship.
On Saturday January 12th, I hope you’ll consider joining the Waterville Adaptive community for a day and evening of fun as we celebrate the second annual Amazing Race Weekend. During the day, bring your team to join the fearsome but fun competition as teams race to complete a series of challenges around the mountain (details and registration here).
Then, in the evening, the celebration continues at the Waterville Valley Conference Center starting at 5pm with cocktails and a silent auction, followed by a festive dinner and a live auction hosted by the inimitable Tom Gross (more information here). All proceeds go to support the WVAS programs throughout the year.