Last week, my good friend’s Facebook status said she spent three days in the athletes’ dorms at the US Olympic/Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Erin is the executive director of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports (VASS). VASS is a non-profit organization that provides sports and recreational opportunities to individuals with disabilities/handicaps, regardless of their ability to pay. I thought Erin’s Facebook status was pretty cool so I decided to find out more.
Erin gave me the update. She was at the Center with other professionals from adaptive sports programs from across the country during which time they shared best practices and determined ways to work collaboratively. Some of the workgroup discussions also focused on marketing and branding in order to raise awareness of the Paralympics.
This year, Vancouver, British Columbia, will host the Paralympic Games. Six hundred and fifty athletes from 45 countries are expected to compete in the Games. Athletes from the United States will compete in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, curling and sled hockey. Disability groups include athletes with visual impairments, cerebral palsy, spinal injuries, amputees, and intellectual disabilities. The first Paralympic Winter Games were held in Sweden in 1976. The Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee and since 1992 share the venue with the Olympics.
According to Erin, the US Olympics are hoping to strengthen their alpine and cross country skiing teams over the coming years, and are looking to programs like Vermont Adaptive to help.
“Vermont Adaptive will be taking a bigger role in identifying athletes and getting them into Level 1 competition, so we can help feed the system and plant the seed to bring home the gold. In addition to working on alpine skiing, we are targeting Nordic (cross country) skiing opportunities with a specific emphasis on identifying folks with physical disabilities; visual impairments and women,” says Erin. “The East has been providing some of the best racers into the US system. There are three New Englanders on the Alpine team now: Chris Devlin-Young of Campton, New Hampshire; Laurie Stephens of Wenham, Massachusetts; and Tyler Walker of Franconia, New Hampshire.”
This winter, Vermont Adaptive will be hosting an event called Winter Carnival with the US Association of Blind Athletes. People of all ages will come to learn to ski or race in either or both Nordic or Alpine over Martin Luther King Weekend. And maybe one of those people will someday make it to the next US Paralympic team and bring home a gold (or silver, or bronze)!
For more information on Vermont Adaptive, visit: http://www.vermontadaptive.org
To help support Vermont Adaptive, consider buying a $50 raffle ticket to win a Honda Fit: https://www.vermontadaptive.org/carraffletix.php