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How to Reach the Mountaintop

Reprinted from PN June 2009

The skiing is a blast, but the people are most important at this life-changing and fun winter event.

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Dave Wolf, 47, is a U.S. Army veteran who grew up in Colorado but never skied before 2008 at his first National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. He has used a wheelchair for 26 years but says the clinic was a life-changing experience for him, and he doesn't plan to miss another one. Wolf has a spinal-cord injury and is also an amputee.

"I realized where I was in my skill level and abilities and where I wanted to be," Wolf said. "After just one week of trying to ski, I decided I wanted to do this competitively, and my life is better for it. I'm more fit and confident and am on my way to being competitive soon—probably within a year."

Ron Magnus, a ten-year Winter Sports Clinic participant, meets Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki at registration for this year's event.

More than 350 veterans swarmed the slopes of Snowmass Village, Colo., March 28 through April 3 for the 23rd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. Co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the event invites disabled active-duty personnel and veterans to experience skiing, snowmobiling, ice hockey, curling, fly fishing, and many other winter activities.

But event participants learn more than just sports. They come from all across the country and from many different backgrounds to discover that disability cannot keep the determined from experiencing life's greatest challenges and rewards; that there is a lot of knowledge, experience, and joy to share in numbers; and that there is a literal truth in the old adage, "No mountain is too high to climb."

It's a Tradition!

Since his first experience, Wolf has been skiing twice a week. He is receiving a specially adapted mono-ski from VA and hopes to be racing by his third Winter Sports Clinic, next year. The clinic isn't just for veterans wanting to be competitive, however.

Joey Bozik, 30, is a triple amputee from North Carolina with four years in a wheelchair. An improvised explosive device (IED) during Operation Iraqi Freedom took both his legs and an arm—but not his spirit of adventure or will to live a full life. While Bozik gets a kick out of the skiing and is enjoying learning to shoot skeet with his left hand, for him the Winter Sports Clinic has become a family affair. With his young wife Jayme, his 14-week-old daughter Violet, and service dog Joshua in tow, Bozik returned to the Winter Sports Clinic for his fourth year to be back among his extended family of veterans with disabilities.

"The skiing is a blast, but I come back each year for the experience and the people I know I will get to see again," Bozik said, among a throng of fellow veterans all aching for a chance to meet Violet. "I have a lot of friends here among the vets and the instructors. I have to show off my baby girl and let them know my life is going well."

Jayme was far more emphatic about the family's need to keep the Winter Sports Clinic as a tradition. "This is always the jump-start to our year. Spring is starting, and we are getting active again," she said. "It really is our New Year, which is a lot for me to say since we were married December 31. The highlight is always meeting the people we've known since Walter Reed, to catch up and see how we are all getting alongand, of course, learning from the older veterans who have lived this life far longer than us."


The personal stories of other participants in the Winter Sports Clinic are also chronicled in the June PN.

 

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How to Reach the Mountaintop

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