Warriors take to the Canadian slopes for adaptive healing
February 18, 2010
By Suzanne Ovel
- The Whistler Adaptive Sports Program camp provided several trainers for each Warrior to teach them how to ski with adaptive aids
This time when he learned to crawl, walk and run, it was on the white slopes of a mountainside with volunteer trainers by his side. Sgt. George Cloy's reentry into downhill skiing came nearly 20 years after his last run down a slope, and this time he was relearning to ski in phases while accommodating neck, back, shoulder and leg injuries. Cloy, a Warrior with Alpha Company, was one of four Warriors with the Warrior Transition Battalion, along with two spouses and two occupational therapy staff members, who went to Whistler, Canada, Jan. 22 to 25 to participate in adaptive skiing. The Whistler Adaptive Sports Program camp provided several trainers for each Warrior to teach them how to ski with adaptive aids, whether it is with a harness tethered to instructors or on a sit ski. Cloy volunteered to go on the trip to try to delve back into the sport. "It has been a long, long time since I had skied. I wanted to see if I could do it and I wanted to challenge myself to see how well I could do it," he said, calling the camp a fun confidence-builder. His lessons were tailored so he wouldn't incur more injuries; although the first day he skied tethered to his instructors, after three days, Cloy met his goal of skiing on his own without poles. "It was awesome; the instructors were incredibly patient. Their knowledge and experience were instrumental in my confidence to achieve my goals," said Cloy. The thrill of the sport diverted him from the physical effort it demanded. "You don't realize how much you've pushed yourself, and how much you've done until the day is over," Cloy said. For WTB Commander Lt. Col Danny Dudek, adaptive skiing reintroduced him to a sport he didn't believe he could participate in again. "I just had a lot of fun and gained confidence in a new skill. I did not think I could have fun skiing... but in fact sit-skiing is a blast, and I can go anywhere I could go with skis," Dudek said. Adaptive skiing doesn't just reintroduce Soldiers to the slopes, said K.J. Doughton, an occupational therapist with the WTB. Overcoming barriers to participate in sports once more can have a ripple effect of more independence in other areas of life. "Essentially it's a catalyst for change; it's a catalyst for people to learn more and to do more," Doughton said. "It's a catalyst for pushing away one's perception of false limitation - 'If I can do this, I can do anything.'" Just being in a completely different environment could be good for Warriors, he said. "That in of itself is therapeutic, to be jolted out of inactivity." Having community members and organizations offer adaptive sports is also beneficial, Doughton said. At the WASP camp, not only did each Warrior have a number of volunteer coaches, but the finances for the trip itself came from a private donation by Bill and Barbara Norman. "I think it's really good for the heart to realize there are people out there who are willing to care about them and support them," Doughton said. With the summer and winter adaptive sports offered through WASP and the great access to opportunities with the nearby Olympics village, Dudek envisions continuing this partnership. Cloy, for one, plans to continue with what he learned at WASP. "I'm so glad I went; it was a great opportunity to get away... and to just clear your head; it was a great opportunity to have fun and meet wonderful people whose sole purpose was to help us with our disabilities no matter what they were," Cloy said.