A very busy year has passed since last year’s Big Apple Skiers trip to the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, Colorado. Our experiences in February 2013 were so extraordinary that before going back home, we already booked our dates for the following year. At the time, all six participants took an oath with each other that they would come back the following year.
In less than a week, nine children, teens and young adults will board a plane heading to Dallas, Texas and then to Gunnison, Colorado. All six from last year are returning: Erin, Rosemary, Max, Daniel, Sara, and her sister Cristina (we all kept our promises!). Our enthusiasm and stories of adventure convinced three other teenagers to join us: Oceane, Valeria, and Keith. Both girls are delightful teens with diplegic cerebral palsy who walk with the help of a walker. Keith was born with a congenital lower extremity deformity and is ambulating with an above knee prosthesis. He is incredibly talented with music and will be our group’s official D.J. Since our group has grown, so has the number of our staff supporting them. This year we will have three therapists leading the trip; two pediatric physical therapists (Siobhan Clarke and myself) and an occupational therapist, Christine Rocchio-Muller. Christine’s presence and her clinical skills will benefit our group tremendously as I have experienced firsthand some of the day-to-day struggles our young group had with morning routines: dressing and undressing, meal preparation and table setting, as well as money management.
Last year’s trip was brilliantly documented by Maureen Suhr, Pediatric Physical Therapist, in a series of blogs. In addition, staff at the Adaptive Sports Center produced a very upbeat and touching short video capturing Sara and Rosie’s adventures on the slopes, as well as their thoughts and feelings. Those who watched it will always remember 9 year old Sara with quadriplegia cerebral palsy saying on the video “I love to ski! It makes me feel like I am a queen of the world!” These blogs and video created a lot of positive excitement and support among our colleagues and leadership at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). Thanks to the extraordinary support of Mr. Lou Shapiro, Robin Merle, JeMe Cioppa-Mosca and Charles Fisher, and financial support from The Charina Foundation and Dr. Leon Root, we are in the finishing stages of our preparations before boarding our plane on February 9th. We will take our group of nine on an incredible adventure where they will learn to travel without their parents, and where they will be challenged and supported as they try skiing for the first time or practice the skills gained last year and progress even further. They will help us with meal preparation, cooking, baking, setting up the table, and cleaning up. They will not only conquer the mountain but will conquer their own fears. One thing is for sure – this group will not be the same when our plane touches down in New York one week later.
Upon our arrival at Gunnison Airport, we will be greeted by the smiling faces of the Adaptive Sports Center staff. They will take us to our rented house, which we will share as an HSS family for the week. Once we unpack and rest, we will talk about what awaits us, as well as our fears and expectations. I am sure our returning participants will have plenty of words of encouragement, wisdom, and gentle support for the teenagers joining us for the first time.
Our itinerary is very busy: four full days of adaptive skiing, creative dancing on stage in the city’s performance center, yoga and swimming on Wednesday, our day off from skiing, and shopping for souvenirs in the charming village of Crested Butte. We have secret plans for Valentine’s Day, which we will spend skiing and celebrating our accomplishments at the end of another busy day with the AdaptiveSportsCenter instructors and volunteers.
Our incredible journey awaits us. Stay tuned for a series of blogs written by participants during our trip with photographs capturing our daily adventures!
Magdalena Oledzka is a pediatric physical therapist and is the section manager at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion at Hospital for Special Surgery. She is NDT trained in the management and treatment of children with cerebral palsy and other neuromotor disorders.