In 1995, I attended my first National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Crested Butte, Colorado. Before I had the opportunity to be part of this event, which is geared toward rehabilitation by coaching Veterans with disabilities in adaptive winter sports, I had helped with the National Veterans TEE Tournament, which at the time was only for blind Veterans.
It was an incredible experience for me as serving as a Team Leader. I was simply amazed and in awe of the participants and all that they were accomplishing with their various disabilities. Honestly, it gave me a whole new perspective on life.
I’m sure there are times when many of us wonder how we would respond if we lost our sight or a limb, suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, or an illness such as Multiple Sclerosis. To go to the Clinic and see Veterans who have sustained life altering injuries skiing or snowboarding is astounding.
I was hooked, and have been a Team Leader at the Winter Sports Clinic 16 times since then. It is truly one of the highlights of my year. I plan to attend this event as long as I can. I enjoy working with the participants, family members, VA Staff, Volunteer Staff and everyone connected with the Clinic.
As for what the event means to the participants and their families, the stories are
endless of how it has changed their lives. It has given them new hope and focus allowing them the opportunity to use what they learned in their rehabilitation and build on it. The Clinic has especially been important for returning Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom Veterans who have suffered injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from their service overseas. The event shows them that they can still have a quality to life despite their disabilities.
Being a retired VA Social Worker and VIS Coordinator I feel that the VA National Events, especially the Winter Sports Clinic, are truly valuable and unique showing that the VA is willing to think outside of the box and treat the Veteran as a whole, mind, body and spirit.
Check out the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic page to learn more about this year’s event which will be held in Snowmass Village, Colorado.
Mike Owen is a National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic Team Leader.