Mentoring Program at Wintergreen Adaptive Sports
Our mentoring program charted a new direction for building bonds between instructors and students as well as among the students themselves.
With our mentoring program that was initiated in 2006 we began pairing students with instructors who have similar disabilities. Through a grant from the Commonwealth Neurotrauma Initiative of the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services, WAS began seeking mentor who could serve as a role model, a coach, and a concerned friend to students. We found shared life experiences has much to offer students coping with disabilities.
While the CNI grant, continued through a grant from the C.H. Neilsen Foundation, focused on spinal cord injuries, WAS continued to develop mentoring programs for the children and teenagers in our programs as well as adults participating in day support programs in Central Virginia area.
Since 2007-08, Wintergreen Adaptive Sports has received several grants dedicated to sponsoring our growing mentoring program.
COMMONWEALTH NEUROTRAUMA INITIATIVE'S TRAUMATIC SPINAL CORD/ BRAIN INJURY SKI MENTORING GRANT
WAS completed three years of our CNI Adaptive Sports Mentoring grant in the summer of 2009. With three years of skiing at the Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado, our ever-growing corps of mentors and mentees got inspired for each season. Being in the company of the country's finest disabled athletes and skiing the challenging, spacious terrain of a western resort are powerful motivators. The camaraderie of traveling together, sharing meals, laughter and stories, along with great skiing, all served as a glue to make everyone even more bonded. By the end of our third season, our initial students, Kristin Beale and Shayna Heeter, had become mentors themselves and the circle had been completed.
With the end of the 2009 season, the CNI grant was completed and was replaced by a grant from the C.H. Neilsen Foundation. The 2010 season brought WAS its newest mentee, and several new participants with spinal cord injuries.
The original hope of this mentoring program was to utilize the power of mentoring, of disabled sport, and of the nurturing of our disabled sport community, to help recently injured individuals re-integrate back into a healthy, day to day lifestyle. Clearly, having come full circle, where our initial students are now coaching and supporting recently injured individuals, this program has met its goals.
CRAIG H. NEILSEN FOUNDATION AND CHRISTOPHER AND DANA REEVE FOUNDATION CONTINUE ADAPTIVE SPORTS PARTNERS PROGRAM
In Dec. of 2008, WAS received two grants (Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation) to continue the work of the CNI grant into its fourth year. Over the summer of 2009, one recently injured individual, Tom Pisano was recruited for his initial 8 ski lessons. Coincidentally, Tom had been injured skiing on one of Wintergreen’s slopes just a couple of years earlier and his return to the sport, and to his independence on skis, was both courageous and inspiring.
In the meantime, several of our mentors, mentees and caregivers started the 2009-10 season with another phenomenal week at the Hartford Ski Spectacular. Each participant in the program skied an average of eight times throughout the 09-10 season, while mentoring phone calls and deepening of the relationships continued. Also, during the 2009-10 season, several other recently injured students were recruited and given their first ski lessons with the hope of bringing them into the mentoring program in 2010-11.
DISABLED SPORTS USA YOUTH SPORTS PARTNERS GRANT
In Feb. of 2008, WAS received its first of two mentoring grant from DS/USA. The purpose of the grant was to pair our young student skiers with skiing adult mentors. The task of the mentors was to ski with the students while encouraging ongoing physical activity and fitness. Terri Bsullak, Massey Teel and Ben Beaudreau served as the original mentors. They skied with each of their mentees on successive weekends and communicated with them, by email or telephone, on a weekly basis. The intent of the grant was to establish lines of communication with mentors that will carry through the spring and into the summer and encourage these young people to remain active and fit. In the fall of 2008, DS USA awarded WAS its second such grant and the 08-09 season continued the program with Terri, Ben and Jason Abel serving as mentors. WAS continued this program on an informal basis through the 2009-10 season.
GREATER LYNCHBURG COMMUNITY TRUST AND THE NELSON COUNTY FUND ADAPTIVE SPORTS PARTNERS PROGRAMS.
In 2007-08, WAS received a grant from The Greater Lynchburg Community Trust which allowed students from the DePaul Family Services Options Day Support Program to ski six times over the course of the season. Each of these students got to experience the joys of downhill skiing while the entire group was mentored/supported by WAS' senior mentor, Terri Bsullak. The program has now continued through three years of operation with many of the same students coming back year after year. In addition, each year brings fresh new faces from Options giving new students with physical and/or cognitive disabilities a taste of the mountains.
Using the Adaptive Sports Partners Program as a model, WAS has obtained funding for the past two years from the Nelson County Fund of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to expend our mentoring program. Every Wednesday throughout the season, WAS hosts four students from Clubhouse Horizon, a day support program for adults with disabilities in Lovingston, VA. Several of these students have made multiple visits over the past two seasons, enjoying the exhilaration of snow sports and the challenge of learning a new skill.
WAS is absolutely committed to the benefits of pairing children and adults with a disability with trained mentors, guides and role models. We are proud of how our mentoring activities have grown and how much our students have benefited from them.
AUGUSTA COUNTY SPORTS PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM
COLLABORATION WITH WOODROW WILSON REHABILITATION CENTER AND SHENANDOAH UNIVERSITY
In 2010, under the guidance of WAS Winter Program Director Massey Teel and his adaptive ski instructors, Shenandoah University's Professor Missy Wolfe-Burke and Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center's Joe Fangman a group of four doctoral students in physical therapy were paired with four WWRC clients with a physical disability for eight consecutive Tuesdays. The focus was to introduce these clients to the joys of alpine skiing while showing the SU doctoral students that the practice of physical therapy does not have to be confined to a medical facility. While performing the physical therapy and ski instruction aspects of this program, the SU students also acted as coaches and mentors for their WWRC clients.
This program was hugely successful. Since 2007-08, WAS has received several grants dedicated to sponsoring our growing mentoring program. These mentoring activities have become a mainstay of the WAS experience.