The National Ability Center just wrapped up another successful edition of their annual Red, White, & Snow fundraiser, but it's not too late to support this excellent local nonprofit. If you've been looking for a way to be involved in the community, the NAC is arguably one of the best ways to give back and have an amazing time all at once. Don't take our word for it, though, the following volunteer experiences speak for themselves.
Although she was a ski patroller on the East Coast, when Jan Bohrer moved to Park City she wanted to find something different that still allowed her to be on snow. The NAC seemed like a good extension of other kinds of service she'd done before. After completing her first winter in the ski and snowboard program, she continued on with several summer programs and also volunteered for the Ability Snow Challenge. Now in her fourth year with the NAC, she's a Level 1 Adaptive PSIA certified Ski Instructor and also teaches archer, swimming, and paddle sports.
"I've learned a lot about my limits and how far I can push," says Bohrer. "There is a family that is very active with the NAC ski program. They have been coming back every year and it's great to watch as the kids grow up and mature. This family not only participates in the program but also supports other participants through Angel donations. They understand that it's not just their own experiences that matter but sharing the experience that makes it so special. There are several families active in the NAC programs that do this to make services available to those cannot afford them. This "pay it forward" attitude is one of the coolest experiences I've had."
Scott Fillipiak has been with the NAC for four years. The idea of helping people get back outside and into nature really struck home for him. He volunteers as a photographer, taking photos at the NAC's larger events for the marketing team to use on social media, promotion, and sharing with participants. "Volunteering with the NAC has helped me learn better ways to interact with others that may have physical or cognitive challenges," says Fillipiak. "I've grown as a photographer and now am better at looking deeper to capture the nature of the person and not just a situation." One of his favorite experiences so far has been shooting photos at a full moon ropes course event last summer, which he looks forward to doing again this summer, if possible.
Scott Lawson learned about the NAC while having lunch after skiing with his sons and began volunteering in January 2016. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get his then 3-year-old autistic daughter, Audrey, to learn how to ski. At her first lesson, he noticed a volunteer assisting and realized it was something he wanted to do, so he signed up to volunteer the same month. He's continued on as a ski volunteer assistant, regularly helping out the certified ski/snowboard instructors during their lessons. "It's amazing to see that anyone of any ability, coupled with the right attitude and the amazing NAC instructors, can ski." says Lawson. "It's easy to perceive someone might have limits to their ability to participate in the program, but I've come to realize that the only limits are those we artificially place on ourselves. The courage and perseverance I see in every participant's approach is matched in reward by the thrill they experience when the magic happens--when the instructors find the right combination of equipment and encouragement to make a successful experience on the snow." It's impossible for Lawson to pick a favorite experience with the NAC, every time he finds new joy in watching the participants of all abilities realize they "can" do what they may have thought was not possible before.
Recently, Lawson's niece Amber, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, has also benefited from the NAC. The family flew in from Atlanta, Georgia so Amber could take part in the program. Lawson worked as the volunteer assistant with her instructor Elan Olliff during the session. Watching Amber ski for the first time and seeing her realize that she could do it was one of those magical moments for everyone involved. An added bonus to the day was that Audrey, who has progressed incredibly since starting with the NAC, being able to tag along and ski independently during the afternoon portion of Amber's lesson.
When Marie Corbin first moved to Park City, she new she wanted to give back to the community. After hearing copious amounts of praise for the NAC, she signed up as a ski volunteer and did that for four years. Now in her fifth year, she's moved into the office to assist with their new software system. Finding out how much needs to be administered and kept track of in managing all the services offered by the NAC has been an eye opener for her. "Everyone that works here is an angel on Earth in one form or another. Volunteers, too," says Corbin. "They all have a special gift that drives them to help others, be selfless. It's not easy work, but they perform it with smiles and genuine care." Corbin's best memory with the NAC was her first session with an athlete, a 6-year-old boy, from the Utah school for the blind and deaf. He had barely learned to walk at 5, but there he was trying to ski. Communication was a struggle on the first day, but the second day was a resounding success as the boy gave her and the instructor two thumbs up (with his little dinosaur mittens) when they got on the chair lift. It set of tears of joy and the kid had a great time on the snow that day.
To find out more about how you can volunteer or other opportunities to support the NAC, check out their website. Before you know it, you'll have plenty of unforgettable, heartwarming, and awesome memories to share too!