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By Ryan Kennedy
From the start of my time with Vermont Adaptive, I’ve struggled to put to words what this organization is to me. Beyond all doubt, the program has been nothing but a positive experience, full of character building, bonding, and meaningful relationships with both athletes and volunteers. That doesn’t quite sum it all up though. To an outsider all that is easy to see. One look at all the smiling faces and boisterous laughing coming from the lodge, or the triumphant cheers of conquering a new goal can give that impression. With my first year as a volunteer for Vermont Adaptive, that’s mostly what it was, a really positive experience.
Coming back as an intern opened up a new perspective for me, and that’s where it becomes hard to describe. Bear with me, but you have to look at it like its diner, where interns are the service staff and the coordinator is the owner. Sounds ridiculous, I know. How could a diner be anything like an adaptive ski program?
See, diners are wonderful places. Everyone comes for the food, at least that’s what they think they come for. Why not go to the five-star restaurant down the road, or the two-dollar fast food chain down the road? It’s because only at a diner can you sit down at the counter and see the person who fixes your car on one side and the owner of a successful business on the other, sharing the same coffee and homestyle food the brings people together. You hear the talk of the town, and welcome strangers with a smile because that’s how it’s done at your diner. Like I said, a wonderful place.
So again, how the heck does this relate to my Vermont Adaptive experience? Well like I said, I felt like the waiter at the diner. Skiing in our case is the food, and I had the privilege to help provide access to the skiing. Everyone ultimately is part of the ski and snowboard program because we all love to ski, but why not go to somewhere else either near or far? It’s from that unspoken bond that brings people back to a diner. It’s facing the most challenging lesson you’ve ever had with a mechanic on your left and a physical therapist on your right. It’s the stories of the athletes and diversity of age, race, and background, all tied to one central location, the mountain. We share the same slopes, the same powder, and the same ice. That kind of community is special, and to the rest of the state and even the world we might just be a “diner” but we are a damn good one and only those who are part of it really know that because they are the ones who make it that way.
My time being part of this crew was amazing. I met some of the most inspirational athletes and volunteers, and that was my favorite part. To be one of the people facilitating lessons was an honor, and a service I would provide time and time again if I could. Like anything it did have its challenges. Learning how to overcome communication barriers was an experience that I will carry with me throughout life. It was always hard, and always will be, but with each lesson I taught it gave me new confidence and tools to handle future challenges.