They wait all year for ski season to come around—sometimes they’ll even ask in the middle of summer when they can ski again. Once the slopes finally open, they arrive with huge smiles and excitement in their eyes. We help with their ski gear and then it’s straight onto the hill where the real fun begins. One participant with speaking problems sings special squeals as he’s skiing. Another gives high-fives all the way down the run. Others play human slalom or throw snowballs at Kim, the sit-skills director. It’s all fun and games, with roars of laughter and cheers all over the slopes. At the end of the lesson, participants love to tell their parents or caregivers how many runs they’ve skied. As the day comes to a close, it’s time to say, “Ski you next week!”
This is what it’s like to volunteer for Eagle Mount, a local provider of therapeutic recreational activities for adults and children with disabilities and children with cancer. Since 1982, activities like alpine and Nordic skiing, ice skating, horseback riding, swimming, cycling, and kayaking have been made possible by thousands of volunteers every year donating their time and expertise.
Adaptive skiing in particular has magical powers—and not just for the participants. The best part about helping someone with an impairment—be it speech, cognitive, or physical—is realizing that they aren’t “disabled,” but that they’re “abled.” With modern technology, there is very little a disabled person can’t do. There are devices, pieces, and parts that enable a person to feel nearly whole again, and Eagle Mount’s ski program has all sorts of fun equipment to aid just about anyone.
To help people with lower-limb amputations to ski standing up, we have crutches with skis on the bottom called “outriggers.” And there are a variety of sit-skis for people with varying degrees of spinal cord injuries or cerebral palsy, allowing them to become virtually independent on the mountain—and often, leaving you in their dust. On days like these, you realize that you aren’t just a volunteer anymore; you’re a buddy, and they just left you behind. No friends on powder days, disability or not.
Everyone who volunteers can agree on one thing: they receive far more than they give. I started volunteering because I heard about recreation therapy from a friend and thought it would be fun. I was excited to share my winter passion with someone else, and I was immediately hooked. The exhilaration you get from making someone smile after skiing their first green run and hearing them say “I did it!” makes you forget your own troubles. Those who volunteer because they want to share what they love doing are often the best teachers of all.
Recreation therapy is also about more than just “play-time.” Eagle Mount helps those with disabilities regain strength, confidence, focus, joy, and freedom in all aspects of their lives. We give children with cancer an opportunity at normalcy, loosening the grip of disabilities and changing their lives. As a volunteer, you’ll meet amazing people—participant and volunteer alike—and make lasting relationships. You’ll see participants push themselves beyond what they believed were their limits, and witness their excitement at reaching those milestones.
So join us today. To volunteer or find out more, visit eaglemount.org or call the office at 556-1781.