By Cori Ward, Vermont Adaptive Guest Blogger, student at the University of Vermont
(For one of Cori’s classes this past semester, she had to do an “observe” blog for a day in the life assignment. This is her experience one cold, windy VERY early morning at Bolton Valley Ski Area this past winter.)
The steep access road to Bolton Valley Ski Area is covered in slush. It’s a little past 5 a.m., and the sun hasn’t risen yet; it is frigid, and the wind blows snow sideways, stinging your face. However, the dedicated volunteers and members of Vermont Adaptive’s veteran group have braved the elements, and the early morning, for the exciting opportunity to share their story with NBC5 Anchor Jennifer Sheahen. I am sleepy but excited to join them.
Two years ago, Vermont Adaptive Program Coordinator Kelly Walsh partnered with Josh Gerasimof from the Veterans’ Association. Together, with the help of many dedicated volunteers and Bolton Valley, they created a weekly ski program for veterans to come enjoy being together, being outside, and trying something new.
Today, in four live segments, both veterans and volunteers were able to tell their stories of how they got involved in the program, how much being in a group like this means to them, and most importantly, got a chance to show off their shredding skills for the camera.
The veterans in this program are thankful not only for the opportunity to get outside and ski and snowboard free of charge (thanks to a grant from the US. Department of Veterans Affairs), but also for the chance to reconnect with other veterans who have lived through similar experiences. Vermont Adaptive gives them a chance to come together and be social while doing something active and fun.
Friendships are not only built between the veterans, but also with the volunteers as well. Kelly is constantly joking with the group while inside the programming space in the base lodge. After the interview with NBC5, Kelly invited everyone out to breakfast with her. I was able to ski with some of the veterans, and felt instantly the warm, inviting attitude of Greg, Todd and Heather as we ventured up the quad together.
Greg, who is both a volunteer and a Vietnam veteran, loves the time he is able to spend with the veteran group every Thursday. Both he and his wife have been involved with Vermont Adaptive for the past five years. Greg hopes to incite a passion for skiing for the other veterans in the program; “skiing is not a sport, it’s a passion,” he declares.
At first I could not believe the amount of the dedication from both the volunteers and the veterans to come out and share their stories despite the frigid weather and the 3:30 a.m. wakeup call. But, after going out on the slopes with them and seeing how much fun they had being outside and enjoying each other and the confidence they gained from learning a new skill, their dedication made perfect sense. The veteran program at Vermont Adaptive is making a huge difference in the lives of these veterans and for many, has been a vital part of them adjusting back to civilian life.
If you would like to get involved with or donate to the veteran program at Vermont Adaptive, please contact Kelly Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the links below to see the interviews of the veterans and volunteers that aired live on NBC5 on Feb. 16.