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SERVING ON THE SLOPES

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WC Alumni Volunteer with Local Adaptive Sports Organization

On any given winter weekend over the last few years, you’d likely find WC alumni Will Evans (WC ’19), Grant Ostermeyer (WC ’19), and Chloe (WC ’16) and Noah (WC ’19) Denorme hitting the slopes. Like many other outdoor sports enthusiasts stuck in central Ohio, these Warriors have made their way many a Saturday to Ohio’s hills at Mad River or Snow Trails to snow ski. While this group shares a love for the sport of snow skiing, they each found a deeper joy that drew them to the slopes: volunteering with Adaptive Sports Connection.

Adaptive Sports Connection is a local organization dedicated to helping people with physical and cognitive challenges to be involved in sports and outdoor recreation, providing equipment, volunteers, and opportunities to make involvement possible. In order for a disabled person to be able to ski, they need the appropriate equipment (typically a “sit-ski”), one lead instructor and one assistant instructor, and four other skiers to protect the participant from other skiers on the slopes. That’s six volunteers for one participant.

This small group from WC became involved with ASC through Chloe and Noah’s father, Gwenn Denorme. An avid life-longer skier himself, Gwenn was invited by a co-worker several years ago to volunteer with the Wounded Warrior project (which partners closely with ASC) to help disabled veterans take part in skiing. Gwenn was quickly hooked and eventually started bringing his family and their friends to join him in volunteering. Gwenn now serves as a lead instructor and volunteer trainer, and Grant, Will, Chloe, and Noah have all served as the “bodyguard” volunteers who protect ASC participants from other skiers on the slopes.

Grant Ostermeyer, currently a freshman at Grand Canyon University, describes his experience with ASC: “It was rewarding and fun because I was doing what I loved to do and helping others who maybe could not do it on their own and experience the same joy I got out of it.” He also explains, “Just seeing people smile…and have a good time just being on a hill with skis is the best thing.” Will Evans, now studying Finance and Accounting at Tiffin University, similarly describes what he sees his role as in volunteering with ASC, “I want to put a smile on each participant’s face.”

One smile that has become quite familiar to Will through ASC is that of a 21-year-old man who is bound to a wheelchair after suffering from severe injuries from a tragic auto accident. The young man cannot walk, has limited mobility with his arms, and is unable to speak, but he and Will have built a relationship through adaptive skiing. Will enjoys helping this young man get on the ski lift properly before each run, securing his gear and equipment, skiing behind him to run interference for others on the hill, and getting a happy “thumbs up” of approval at the end of each run.

Chloe Denorme’s involvement with ASC has so deeply impacted her that it has influenced her career plans for the future. Though she started volunteering as an ASC “ski buddy” in her late middle school years and even had the opportunity to serve as lead instructor for groups of children with Down syndrome, her perspective on adaptive sports completely changed during her junior year of high school. She tore her ACL and rather than taking that winter off from volunteering with ASC, she decided to try out adaptive skiing as a participant. She learned to use a sit-ski and helped to train other volunteers to ski with participants. It didn’t take Chloe long to realize that the adaptive equipment available to disabled athletes is far less functional than it should or could be. In discussions with the ASC director and other ASC participants, Chloe discovered this lack of equipment accessibility to be common in the adaptive sports world. She thought, “There has to be a better way.” She is now studying mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama and plans to start her own company or join the research and design team of an existing adaptive sports equipment company.

Though their college lives make it difficult to hit the slopes every weekend to volunteer nowadays, the experiences these Warriors have had with ASC will undoubtedly stay with them forever. They have discovered a transformative perspective on life– strength in the midst of constant struggle, bravery in the midst of difficult circumstances, and joy in the midst of suffering.

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