With over four hundred volunteers, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is one of the largest, non-profit, year-round programs in New England for people with disabilities. Their goal is to empower individuals through adaptive sports and recreation.
Kelly Walsh, Program Coordinator for Vermont Adaptive explains, “We offer skiing, canoeing, rock climbing, hiking, biking, kayaking, and horseback riding. We also do specialty camps and adventure weekends. Our program truly empowers people with disabilities, and helps them gain independence through self involvement and group activities.“
“When I first became involved with Vermont Adaptive, I was a volunteer,” Walsh continues. “After volunteering, I went on to teach special education for a while, and a few years later found myself working once again with adaptive sports.”
“We serve so many people with a variety of disabilities, and each of their stories are unique and inspiring,” Walsh adds. “We’ve had disabled veterans come to us who had PTSD and couldn’t figure out how to reintegrate with society. We gave them opportunities to do that by skiing, biking, and horseback riding. Once they experienced these group activities, they were able to feel as though they were a part of the community again.”
“We also have people with brain injuries or spinal cord injuries who come to us to learn how to get back into the activities that they were a part of before their injuries,” Walsh explains. “We work a lot with families, and help them experience the joy of being outside and being active. Sometimes the smallest actions, such as skiing with a group of people, can have the biggest impact on the self confidence of someone living with a disability.”
Walsh has a few final words of advice for anyone who is considering getting involved with adaptive sports. “People need to get outside and get active,” she says. “Getting out of your wheelchair or just doing something a little different, not just emotionally, but physically, is a great way to strengthen other parts of your body. Being out of a wheelchair and participating in sports is liberating. It’s something that people should incorporate into their lives. Make it a regular practice.”
Ross Almo is on the board of directors for Vermont Adaptive, and also volunteers as an instructor for the blind and visually impaired. Almo explains, “After a skiing incident a few years ago, I became immobilized for a long period of time. From that, I began to learn and understand the frustrations that someone who is facing mobility challenges has. That understanding inspired me to become a part of Vermont Adaptive and to give back to others through our programs.”
“If it wasn’t for Vermont Adaptive’s program and its volunteers, so many disabled athletes in our area may not have the opportunity to get out there to do the things they enjoy,” Almo states. “It’s a great feeling at the end of the day to know you’re helping someone with a disability to be a part of something they love.”
“One thing is for sure, you get back more than you can ever give through the volunteer program at Vermont Adaptive. This non-profit program changed my life. The volunteers are the most kind and giving people I’ve ever met, and now many have become dear friends. I use to work a corporate job, but now I get to work with kids who have physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities, and I couldn’t be happier,” Almo adds with a smile.
If you would like to volunteer with Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports, go to http://www.vermontadaptive.org/interns.php
For more information about the adaptive sports opportunities available through Vermont Adaptive, visit www.vermontadaptive.org
Editors Note: Lisa has helped create several online social communities (Wheel:Life.org) for friends who use wheelchairs to help people discover new relationships, lifestyle resources and web-based support groups. Lisa guides healthcare providers in creating support programs and communication resources for people who have disabilities. A frequent speaker and guest columnist, you will find her presenting at disability and healthcare conferences nationwide.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/1215/0100