For the past twelve years I have worked with the Traverse Area Intermediate School District (TBAISD) as a physical therapist. During that time I have had the opportunity to work with special education students with varying cognitive and physical challenges. Many are a source of joy and inspiration for me. They work hard and share common aspirations and goals.
One group of students has been involved in cross country skiing. They are attracted to it for all the right reasons: fun, challenge, love of nature, and camaraderie. This year, as they have for the past 24 years, a group of green coated students participated in the 2009 VASA. They spent many hours on the trails training for the big race. For some it is serious business but for all it is serious fun.
Tom Park, the ski team coach, shed some light on the history of the adaptive ski team:
"Twenty-four years ago three teachers at TBAISD thought they could train and then ski alongside some of their Special Education students during the North American VASA Ski Race. It was successful; that is how the TBA Adaptive Ski Program began and today it is an integral part of the VASA ski race. The program, which is unique among ski races in North America, allows young adults with mental and physical disabilities the chance to challenge themselves to ski distances up to 10K."
The next time you see the skiers in the green coats say "hello". Know that you share a common love of skiing and that they are worthy of your respect and admiration.