Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Michael Gray Race Results

I asked coach Mary Bozzone for the results from last week's challenge between the racers and their family/coaches. Here's what she told me:

Hi Bonnie,
Well, it's close on who won, but I think that the family/coaches just scratched
pass the racers. There were 13 ASF Racers and 9 coaches/family team.
  • Patrick Carroll (ASF Racer) had the best race of the day with 36:54 for the racers.
  • Amelia Smollens (ASF Racer) had the best race with 41:47 for the female racers.
  • Coach Sandy had the best coach race with 38:62 (winning a bronze medal in her age group)
  • Eddie Carroll Jr. (brother of racer, Patrick Carroll) had the best race with 33:02 for the snowboarders on the family team.
See ya Saturday for the Hartman Race!
....and a great time was had by all!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Racer's Ready!

Had a great weekend skiing with the team...over 20 members of the squad on Saturday and 10 on Sunday. We have some of the best disabled skiers in the country--very FAST!
SOOOOO....this coming weekend is your chance to race against our team. Friends, parents, siblings, and staff are welcome to compete alongside our lightening speed demons...if you dare!
Then join in afterwards for dinner and dancing with one and all--very fun for the whole family.

Then stay tuned for the Hartman race, the season finale on the 14th of March. Also with a great dinner on Saturday night!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscars, Baby!

I had the unique pleasure of being at the Oscars this last weekend! Although I was sorry to miss being with the team, I did enjoy shaking hands with Ron Howard, laughing with Latifah, and seeing the piece that Allen Haines (on the adaptive teaching staff) made to honor all the people who passed away in the last year.
I was glad to see that the Red Carpet is indeed accessible! After it wraps around the corner and you can't see it on TV anymore it goes up a Grand Staircase, but there is an elevator. I saw several wheelchairs mingling with us out there and thought that was great.
It was fun to see behind the scenes during the commercials: Hugh Jackman brought his wife a plate of cookies...he practiced with Brad Pitt so Brad could throw him the cane for the big dance number with top hats. Hugh was warm and funny even when the cameras aren't rolling.
Other stars I saw up close: Danny Glover, Sting, Sophia Loren, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Vanessa Redgrave, Kevin Kline, Lou Gossett, Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rooney, Robin Roberts, Zack Ephron (ran into him backstage and he let me have the bathroom first), and many, many more!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Champions aren’t Built One at a Time

W2, as he was fondly called, was the headmaster and founder of the nation’s first high school for training ski racers—Burke Mountain Academy in East Burke, VT. Despite the fact that my leg had been amputated at age five, he believed in my dream of becoming an international ski champion and gave me a full scholarship to train with the best of the best as the first disabled athlete at his special school. I had been racing against other amputees and already won six medals in national competition. Being at Burke Acadmey was my passport to getting good enough to qualify for the US Paralympic team.

Transition to Training School: Senior year in high school can be tough for anyone, but being at Burke redefined the word, “tough.” On the first day of school, I broke my leg—my only good leg. I didn’t have enough money for race expenses so I spent my rehabilitation time writing letters to sponsors for help. Right after I got the cast off my real leg, my artificial leg broke in half…then got lost in the mail when I sent it off for repair! Once my legs were working again and the snow fell, I found out that all the other kids could ski on one leg better than I could, In sum, I was far away from home, broke, and very,very frustrated. I learned that when you cry in your goggles, it freezes.

But I stuck with it. I trained with all the two legged kids, got stronger and most importantly, learned to race.
[Excerpt from an article in Fall issue of Balance Magazine. To read the rest of the article go to Under “The Magazine” find the issue with Lorraine Bracco on the cover (Fall 08). Click to download and turn to page 76. The article is about the impact Warren Witherell and Burke Mountain Academy had on my life—I share his five tips for building your own communities of champions at work, at home, and in your community.]

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Joy of Equipment

My second clinic was all about mono-ski and bi-ski. Again, we had great instructors with tons of experience as well as participants who were sharing their knowledge and experience too. You might think that since I was on the Paralympic team I would know more about disabled ski equipment like the mono-ski. But I really don’t.

I was an expert on my own equipment—outriggers for an amputee. I never had to focus on other skiers. Now that I am coaching with the race team, I need to learn about a wide variety of ways to ski. Plus, the equipment is always changing and new devices are being developed. Lots of people join the clinic just to refresh themselves if they haven’t done that subject in a few years or if they want to broaden the range of disabilities they can work with.

It was fun to get to sit in the mono-ski and try to balance. I practiced putting on all the straps. I learned about the “dowel test” to balance the skier. We spent some time in the classroom as well, going over the range of disabilities that would use mono-ski and bi-ski, health issues to be aware of when skiing with mono and bi-skiers. Once again, I felt so lucky to have access to so many experts willing to take the time to pass on their experience to me.

If you are volunteering, take advantage of the clinics. If you are thinking about volunteering…you will grow! Come and join in the fun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the Road with Autism

I took an incredibly inspiring, one-day clinic at ASF all about autism. I learned about Temple Grandin, a woman with autism who earned a Ph. D. and designs cattle facilities! With understanding and supportive family and friends she has been able to harness her ability to think and perceive differently to become a leading world expert at designing humane slaughter facilities for animals. Also she has been able to give us more insight into what it feels like to be autistic. We watched a hilarious video at about two families that packed their autistic kids in a Humvee and go on the road. Normally it is hard to take autistic kids out to do fun things in the world because other people will judge them and the parents for any unusual behavior. But they just decided to do it anyway! Very inspiring. On the side of the Humvee they painted, “Fight Autism, not War!” I think you can get T-shirts with the slogan also. It mostly shows their trip to learn to ski at an adaptive sports center in California. Watch the video to get a taste of life here at ASF.

We also went out on snow and role-played working with autistic kids. I was partnered with Larry, a parent of an autistic racer at ASF, and he helped me to understand the kinds of games he uses to keep his son focused while riding the chairlift and how to break up instructions into bite size pieces. I learned “First-Then” techniques with rewards. When he role-played the student and I had to be the teacher, he made the whole experience seem so realistic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ASF: Greatest Place on Earth

I am very excited about this winter in Windham with the Adaptive Sports Program. It is my second winter as a volunteer. Since I competed on the US Paralympic ski team in 1984, I get to help with the race team. It brings back so many memories of my own training and all of the people who helped me to reach for my dreams.

When I went to the volunteer orientation back in November, it felt great to be welcomed back for another year with familiar faces, hear all the latest news, get more helpful tips and gear up for the new season. ASF gives you lots of support and education as a volunteer. Basically I feel like a part of one big family in our snug little lodge with the warm fireplace apart from the big, public lodge down the hill. ASF is a place where everyone is accepted and valued for what they can do, not what they can’t do. I LOVE being able to look around and see people in wheelchairs, people with cognitive disabilities and people missing arms and legs sitting on sofas, walking across the room to get their equipment or lift tickets, and mingling with volunteers, staff, families, and friends. No one is staring or shocked by anything we do. Everyone is helpful, kind and loving. Sound like heaven? It is!

I have a confession: I don’t really think the disabled people are the oddest people at ASF. Lots of the people who come to help (including me) are real characters. Lots of personality! Also big differences of rich and not rich, black and white, East and West, city and rural, Democrat and Republican. So it isn’t just our disabilities that need acceptance and kindness—we need it for our eccentricities, our differences, and our uniqueness. At ASF I always feel like I have landed in a little utopia—full of people getting along and caring about one another the way it should be everywhere.