Veterans Prepare to Make 'Miracles on Mountainside'

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Sandy Trombetta used to bring disabled veterans of war to the ski slopes one at a time in the 1980s. As a recreation therapist at the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center in western Colorado, Trombetta recognized the physical and mental benefits that skiing and other winter activities can provide.

"It started with one individual more or less on a lark, but even way back [then] I knew I was onto something," said Trombetta, the VA national director for the clinic.

John Register
John Register

A few years after those first excursions into the mountains, Trombetta realized there was a need for something bigger. In 1987, the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic officially was launched. With help from 20 staff members, roughly 90 disabled veterans learned to ski using adaptive equipment that year. The event proved popular, and in 1991 the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) stepped in as a co-sponsor.

Last year, 370 veterans from across the country participated, and 200 certified disabled ski instructors as well as several members of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team joined in. Even bigger numbers are expected at this year's event (nearly 400 participants are registered), which is scheduled for March 30 through April 5 at Snowmass Village, Colorado. The event is billed as the largest annual disabled learn-to-ski clinic in the world.

"Skiing is the method we use to enliven people to realize the possibilities that are out there," said Trombetta. "But it's about more than that. It's about people reaching new heights and finding out more about themselves. And hopefully they take those experiences home with them."

Veterans of every U.S. military conflict dating back to World War II will be represented, including many who have served in more than one war. Although all participants are expected to hit the ski slopes at least three times, there are plenty of other options to keep everyone interested including cross country skiing, sled hockey, snowshoeing, rock climbing, and much more. Instructional and educational workshops also are offered, as are trips to the always-popular Glenwood hot springs.

"The coolest thing about our event is the dynamic and the vibe it creates. It's an energy that you cannot put down on paper," Trombetta said. "We set the stage, and the participants are the movie."

One participant each year is chosen for the DAV Freedom Award for Outstanding Courage and Achievement, an honor given to the veteran who makes the most progress during the week and "shows outstanding courage and accomplishment in taking a giant step forward in his or her rehabilitation process."

The Linnie Howard Spirit Award also is presented at the end of the week. The award's namesake attended the clinic in 1987 and 1988, and at nearly 70 years old he was the oldest participant at that time. Howard, who died in 1988, did not allow age or disability to slow him down, and the award that honors his name is presented to the person who embodies the "true spirit of the clinic."

OPAF Announces its Select Accomplishments for 2007

The Orthotic & Prosthetic Assistance Fund Inc. (OPAF), serving as the official philanthropy of the U.S. orthotic and prosthetic community, has released a list of its select accomplishments for 2007.

"OPAF works to provide programs, clinics, and events that promote health and fitness for those served within the O&P field," said Robin Burton, OPAF executive director. "From our founding in 1996 to support Paralympic Games to today's First Clinics, OPAF is reaching out to the physically challenged."

Included among OPAF's select accomplishments:

  • Hosted 18 First Clinics--including First Volley™, First Swim™, First Swing™, and First Dive™--across the United States and Canada, which is over three times the number in previous years, according to OPAF.
  • Initiated First Dive, an adaptive introduction to SCUBA clinic for amputees and those with physical challenges.
  • Received a 2007 Community Service Award for Adaptive Tennis from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for First Volley.

View OPAF's entire list at

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