By Samantha Wohlers
Jan. 27, 2015. From January 19 – 23, volunteers from Lees-McRae College participated in the 34th annual DSUSA Adaptive Learn to Ski event at Beech Mountain Resort. Students, staff and alumni assisted instructors and volunteers with many of the lessons for the more than 70 individuals with disabilities as they learned to ski and snowboard.
The Adaptive Learn to Ski Clinic at the Beech Mountain Ski Resort is the oldest clinic, being the first among many national clinics started by the DSUSA, otherwise known in history as National Handicap Sports. In 1981, the first clinic was developed by the Atlanta Chapter of National Handicap Sports and held at Beech Mountain Resort. NHS continued running the event through 2004.
The clinic is now in its 34th year and is run by DSUSA as well as a supporting effort among many programs who focus on providing sports and adventure activities for persons with disabilities. The director of the clinic, Al Kaye, a clinical specialist from the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville, Tenn., brings together resources from sponsors, equipment and instructors who help teach skiing and snowboarding to those with disabilities in the southeast region.
Dee Thomas, director of outdoor programs and coordinator for the Lees-McRae College volunteers, started the Beech Mountain Adaptive Snowsports Center in 2001 at Beech Mountain Resort. Thomas offered daily adaptive lessons through the Beech Mountain Ski School and had the opportunity to be an instructor for the annual adaptive clinic.
“When I began my job as the director of outdoor programs at Lees-McRae College in 2007 I was no longer able to instruct the daily lessons, but I continued to be involved in the four-day DSUSA Adaptive Learn to Ski Clinic by coordinating student volunteers from Lees-McRae to help out on and off the snow,” said Thomas. Lees-McRae alumna Natalie Burns ran the daily lessons from 2008-2010 and is presently instructing adaptive skiing at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado.
First time volunteer and Lees-McRae student, Elaina Bassett, participated in all of the dinners with the participants, adaptive instructors and the volunteers each night at the Pinnacle Inn. Bassett was also an on-the-snow volunteer every day of the event. Bassett said that being able to be part of an event that allowed people to participate in skiing in a way they never imagined possible was truly amazing.
“The first day [of the clinic] I helped an amputee named George monoski for the first time. Being able to be part of that experience with him will be something I’ll never forget,” said Bassett. She admits, “You don’t realize how far a little help can go until you do something like this. I can’t wait to do it again next year.” According to Bassett, everyone involved was “grateful, dedicated and a blessing to be around.”
Volunteers for the DSUSA Adaptive Learn to Ski Event included Lees-McRae students Elaina Bassett, Gunner Bergey, Kevin Burgess, Angel Cooper, Taylor Deno, Jason Els, Alexis Franco, Taylor Goss, Courtney Halford, Jourdan Hanna, Samantha Harris, Rebecca King, Jennifer Owen, Sydnie Taylor, Gracie Walker and Kristian Winkler as well as staff members Kelly Collins, Dee Thomas and alumni Natalie Burns and Lauren Lampley.
For more information about Lees-McRae’s participation in the DSUSA Adaptive Learn to Ski Event, please contact Dee Thomas at [email protected].
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Lees-McRae College is a private, four-year college offering diverse baccalaureate degrees, strong athletic programs and outstanding faculty. With 950 students hailing from 31 states and more than 8 countries, Lees-McRae’s broad core curriculum is enhanced by field-specific career preparation and experiential learning. For more information, please visit www.lmc.edu or call 828-898-5241.