No one should be denied a fun, sporty vacation because of a physical or mental condition. For over 25 years, The Winter Skiing Unlimited program has provided many deaf, blind, paraplegic, quadriplegic and developmentally disabled individuals a chance to experience an otherwise missed opportunity: snow skiing.
“For the most part, no disability is too severe to participate in our program. We have participants who are deaf, blind, have autism, Down syndrome, are quadriplegic or paraplegic and they can still come skiing,” said Marci Boucher, executive director for the Stanislaus County Society for Handicapped Children and Adults, which is the organization that runs Winter Skiing Unlimited.
“We have sit skis for those who do not have sufficient trunk strength or mobility limitations; many ski with regular skis but may have adapted equipment. Some of the adaptive equipment we use is a tether system to help with control or a walker type apparatus with small skis attached to the bottom to assist those that need help with upper body strength. Our volunteers pride themselves on making it happen for each and every participant,” Boucher said.
The Society for Handicapped Children and Adults is privately funded, and continually depends on donations from individuals and volunteers to help accomplish their tasks. The event is free for the participants, and family members are encouraged to ski for a discounted lift ticket, which makes the trip more affordable. The only service that the Society asks the participants to provide is a chaperone (if under 18), and their own mode of transportation to the Dodge Ridge Ski Resort.
Desired participants must be at least 7 years of age, and weigh a maximum of 180 pounds. The event puts safety first, and follows strict regulations, including how many volunteers are needed to accompany the participants.
Family members and local volunteers who sign up to help are surprised to find that their emotional involvement in the program is just as crucial as the participants attending. For many volunteers, seeing these energetic, “priceless smiles” are what motivates them to live a better life, and help another in return.
“Some participants need more than one person to assist them in their experience while others just need someone to shadow them. We are fortunate that we don’t typically have a problem with too few volunteers,” said Boucher.
Since its beginning over 25 year ago, the Winter Skiing Unlimited program has grown to great social lengths, and has brought out the eagerness to learn for many participants.
“We have had numerous parents and guardians comment on the positive changes and growth they have seen in their child,” Boucher said. “They were never able to enjoy a physical activity before our program. There are not words for the expressions we see on the faces of our participants. They are full of excitement and pride. “
The program begins again for the winter season in the new year and runs Jan. 12, Feb. 2 and 23, and March 9 and 16. A Ski and Board-a-Thon were teams are able to sign up, raise funds and spend a day skiing to raise awareness for the program, will be held at Dodge Ridge on Feb. 23.
Additionally, the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults are selling tickets to view Warren Miller’s 63rd film, “Flow State.” The proceeds go towards supporting the Winter Ski Unlimited program. Tickets are sold at The State Theatre Box Office in Modesto, and Sunsports in Turlock.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or a participant, application packets can be found online at www.societyforhandicapped.org, or at 1129 8th St., in downtown Modesto.
To learn more about opportunities, special events, or volunteer services, contact The Society at 524-3536 or e-mail email@example.com.
— BROOKE BORBA /