When the snow comes down, people all over the world head to the slopes for what is commonly referred to as extreme winter sports. This New Year’s weekend, skiing and snowboarding became a lot more extreme. After months of planning and preparation, Kids of Courage hit the road again, as four buses stocked with oxygen tanks, medication, medical staff, volunteer counselors, and a whole lot of excited campers headed Northeast for the slopes of Mount Snow, Vermont for the group’s sixth annual Ski Madness weekend.
The first stop for the KOC crew was the magnificent WWII aircraft carrier, the Intrepid, where campers were able to experience hands-on what it was like to live on and operate the ship and various aircraft. Wheelchairs were traded in for cockpits; crutches for acceleration throttles. This past Thursday, the few and the proud boarded that ship once more.
Laser tag and arcade games at Nomad’s Adventure Quest in Connecticut kept Couragers busy on Friday. Dayna bounced around the moonwalk, spreading her contagious smile to everyone who passed, while Monty let out some road rage on the bumper-car rink. (The arcade staff is still unsure what hit them as energy in the form of wheelchairs and walkers powered up the place.)
A short time later, zemiros and laughter could be heard through the halls of the Springfield, MA Sheraton Hotel where Kids of Courage spent a beautiful and heartwarming Shabbos. Throughout the 25 hours, the campers, staff, and guests were graced with the inspiring words of scholar-in-residence Rabbi Noiky Roberts, and participated in games and programming that had Couragers in stitches. Shabbos was restful as old friends caught up with each other and new relationships were forged. By the time the Soul Farm concert started on motzaeiShabbos, everyone was jumping, dancing, and wheeling as one.
Sunday morning brought an early wake up as bundled-up campers and “snow-proof” ventilator headed for the slopes. These unusual preparations are anything but unusual at Kids of Courage, where the amazingly dedicated Kids of Courage staff seem to be everywhere at the same time.
The campers were greeted with thunderous applause as they got off the buses at Mt. Snow. With the guidance and instruction of over 100 volunteers from the gracious and talented AbilityPlus team, the barrier between disability and adventure was once again broken. Campers on skis, snowboards, and sled-like bi-skis descended the slopes with grace. Fourteen-year-old Racheli was reported to be going down one trail at 50 miles-per-hour, while adorable and fearless four-year-old Aryeh could be heard shrieking, “Let’s go zoom, let’s go zoom!” with absolute glee. The Kids of Courage-AbilityPlus team-up is a force to be reckoned with. The magic that filled those snow-covered slopes of Mt. Snow on the first Sunday of 2015 was radiant, as were the smiles of the courageous children and young adults.
Kids of Courage proved, once again, that disability is not a brick wall but merely an obstacle–one that we can triumph over with the help of family and friends. The greatest lesson learned from Kids of Courage is that falling down, whether on the slopes or in life in general, is the opportunity to get back up and grow stronger. Mount Snow has never seen a stronger group of skiers.
Kids of Courage is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of chronically ill children and young adults through year-round programming and biannual adventure trips. For more information or to make a donation, visit kidsoc.org or follow them on your favorite social media site at @KidsOfCourage.