NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 26, 2017) – Individuals with special needs from the south eastern region of the United States spend time on the mountainous ski slopes every winter thanks to the help of many volunteers. A U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District team member often spends a portion of the winter at an eastern Tennessee ski resort supporting the free ski clinic for dozens of adaptive skiers.
Marcus Brumbaugh, electrical equipment mechanic at the Cordell Hull Dam in Carthage, Tenn., said he enjoys spending his wintery weekends on some of Tennessee's most vibrant mountain slopes skiing. One of his passions is volunteering during his off-duty hours to help provide a great skiing experience for these men and women who wouldn't ordinarily get to go on a ski run.
"I love working with people with disabilities and this adaptive ski program fits me perfectly," said Brumbaugh. "When I help someone do something courageous, I get a fantastic feeling every time I see a smile on their face."
From Jan. 16 - 20, 2017, Brumbaugh helped out with the clinic held at the Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain, N.C. He assisted the Disabled Sports USA chapter and the Sports Parks and Recreation of Chattanooga, (SPARC) an affiliate chapter of the Disabled Sports USA Adaptive Learn to Ski Program.
An avid snow and water skier, Brumbaugh became involved in the program several years ago because he wanted to volunteer in winter and summer activities that assists and work with disabled military veterans. Now, several times a year, he looks forward to special events where he guides skiers up and down slopes.
"It's so gratifying work with them and know that I'm assisting them in achieving a dream, a goal, or doing something they either just wanted to try or love doing," said Brumbaugh.
Al Kaye, event coordinator for the Disabled Sports USA Adaptive Learn to Ski Program, said more than 300 participants come from all over the south east region. Many come from North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Every year the list grows.
"We have a great staff of volunteers who have the gift to instruct and love working with the adaptive skiers," said Kaye. "It just takes a special group of people to do this work and we look forward to working on this event every year with the team," said Kaye.
Ages range from age 4 to 70 with a variety of diagnoses, which include brain and spinal injuries, amputees, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, visually impaired, neurological and orthopedic challenges, and individuals who experience a medical condition known as "developmental delayed," where a person is less developed mentally or physically.
"We send out emails, receive recommendations, from past attendees and select those on a first come, first serve basis," said Kaye.
Kaye said this is the 36th ski event at Beech Mountain Resort, which is the oldest adaptive ski clinic in the country. It is the first of a group of national instructional clinics. Started by Disabled Sports USA, known as National Handicap Sports, various national sponsors of this event donate to bring together the instructors, equipment, and resources necessary to teach skiing and snowboarding to individuals with disabilities. Applications are released in November once all instructors are secured. Lessons are based on availability of type of lesson and the ski clinic includes equipment, time slots, and instructors.
Since 1981, the adaptive sports program has been offering risk reduced and highly supportive ski lessons for adults and children with a wide array of disabilities.
Kaye said the instructional team for the event at Beech Mountain is from all over the United States and all are "Professional Ski Instructors of America Adaptive" certified instructors with over 75 years of combined experience.
He said the instructional team includes individuals from Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Crested Butte Adaptive Programs, and Cataloochee Adaptive Program. The team's experienced instructors provide the skiers mono-ski, bi-ski, twin ski, 2, 3, and 4 tracking, slider, visually impaired and snowboard instruction.
More than $50,000 of adaptive ski equipment was brought to the event to provide a multitude of snow experiences for the participants.
"We want participants to enjoy themselves, have fun, get an experience of a lifetime, make new friends and come away with an experience they will never forget," said Kaye.
Brumbaugh, an Army and Marine Corps veteran himself, said he connects with everyone at the event but absolutely loves working with active duty military and veteran attendees. He believes through the program, service members and veterans can talk to him freely and open up the program participants which allows the opportunity to experience a new activity, gain confidence and develop a skillset they can use in life.
"Being around them is much like our Corps family because there are volunteer veterans assisting to help attain a common goal," said Brumbaugh. "For example, I had the opportunity this year to work with an active duty veteran that had not been on the slopes since he was injured and this event allowed him the opportunity to get back on the slopes."
Brumbaugh said he is no doctor but thinks the adaptive ski clinic builds muscles, endurance, coordination and motor skills. He said most people take it for granted the ability to function in a normal, every-day setting, but many of these participants deal with their various disabilities every day. He said it is a task for most of these folks and this is a fantastic opportunity for them to continue or try something different to build confidence and enrich their lifestyles.
"Our motto of DSUSA is, 'If I can do this, I can do anything,' which inspires many to give alpine sports a try," said Brumbaugh. "I often can relate to military personnel well because I know what they have been through while serving and it can be hard for them to try something new, but when they get the hang of it, it's definitely gratifying to see."
Brumbaugh said he very much respects and admires their courage, endurance and efforts.
"Many of them tell me about their changes," said Brumbaugh. "This Adaptive Program caters to individuals of all ages with physical, cognitive, or developmental disabilities and that's what makes it great."
Kaye added that the programs change the lives of individuals with disabilities and special needs each and every day. He said ski instructors and volunteers are at the heart of the organization. Volunteers do the administration, training, assisting, teaching, and fundraising for the organization.
Often many Corps of Engineer personnel from around the district volunteer their time with local college and high school engineering programs, homeless shelters, churches, sports teams, and various science, technology, engineering and math competitions.
Brumbaugh is currently a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, works as a part-time weekend instructor during the winter at a resort in Gatlinburg, Tenn., he working on his ski instructor credentials. He plans on guiding more of his physically challenged friends down the slopes and this summer he plans on volunteering at a disabled water skiing event.
(For more news, updates and information, visit the districts website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps or Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)