AWSA AND NCWSA CLUBS UNITE
TO HOST ADAPTIVE SKI DAY
CONTRIBUTORS: JANET PIERCY, CHAMPIONSHIP LAKES
THOMAS BALDWIN, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY
TUCKER JOHNSON, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
JENA MUNSON, CTRS CHI IMMANUEL REHABILITATION INSTITUTE
To conclude our mini series of blog posts on adaptive skiing, we met up with a group of college students and homeowners in Nebraska that put on a successful adaptive skiing day each year. According to homeowner Janet Piercy, “Our adaptive ski day is the most rewarding event we host all year!” Her enthusiasm is matched by college students from across the midwest that gather to help her and the rest of the Championship Lakes Ski Club.
When the day was first organized, the group teamed up with Ann O’Brine-Satterfield of U Can Ski 2. She and her crew traveled from Florida to Championship Lakes to help with the day and teach the club how to successfully and safely operate an adaptive ski day. The club also partners each year with CHI Immanuel Rehabilitation Institute, a hospital in the local area.
In recent years college students from the University of Nebraska and Iowa State have also traveled out to Championship Lakes with their teams to help with the day. Piercy stated that it takes at least as many workers as participants, so the more the merrier. Side skiing can be very physically taxing and it is best to continually rotate personnel so no one is worn out too quickly.
Iowa State college student Thomas Baldwin reflects on one of his favorite memories, “My favorite memory from the event last year, was the connection myself and the other guys from the Iowa State Team, made with one woman who had been at clinic. Even though she had experienced her fair share of physical setbacks, she refused to let those setbacks affect the joy she had in life. The day started off a bit cold and rainy, but she was bound and determined to get out on the water as much as time allowed and thanked us more than was necessary for going out there with her!”
For both Baldwin and University of Nebraska student Tucker Johnson, the love of sharing their life on the water during the adaptive ski day comes from the empowerment they see in participants. Each participant is empowered to do something they’ve never done before and the joy and freedom that accompanies that empowerment is a beautiful thing for both volunteers and participants. Baldwin says, “Life on the water is about escaping the stresses and concerns that come along with everyday life. For many of us in the waterskiing community, the time spent on the water is the only time we can truly feel stress free. It is because of this feeling, we all understand the importance water skiing for even 15 minutes can have for someone with a disability who possibly hasn’t felt true stress-less freedom in a long time.” Johnson also chimed in remembering that many of the skiers had nerves before they got on the water, but as soon as the chair was gliding behind the boat those fears were long forgotten. “Many of the same disabled skiers come back year after year, and they are elated (some nervous) to be able to get on the water. Not only is it fun for them, but it is obviously empowering for them. There is a large amount of safety precautions for adaptive skiing, but there are still wipeouts! Some of the disabled skiers even plan to crash just so they can experience the adrenaline rush. Being able to take your hand off of their ‘sled’ and let them hold on all by themselves is scary as the side skier, but so rewarding to see how much joy it brings these people.”
The Nebraska club and its volunteers, along with USA Water Ski would like to challenge you to get involved with an adaptive ski day, or start one in your area! Advice from the Championship Lakes group would be to partner with a local hospital, chat with clubs that have successfully held adaptive ski days, and get the support of your state water ski association. Make sure that you have plenty of volunteers and that you allow an extra day or two to train volunteers before they begin interacting with participants. Finally, start planning early so that you have more than enough time to recruit as many volunteers as possible. Good luck, and have FUN!