After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 150 participants gathered in the mountains of Colorado for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. The event, co-presented by Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), took place in Snowmass, CO.
TriWest was a hosting sponsor of the Clinic that serves as a leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for disabled Veterans, promoting world-class health care and rehabilitation. Known as “Miracles on a Mountainside,” it offers Veterans opportunities for self-development and challenge through sports therapy and rehabilitative activities such as adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, sled hockey, and other adaptive activities.
For Adrian Atizado, TriWest Director of Government Relations in Washington, D.C., it was his first time to not only attend the clinic, but also to serve as a volunteer. And it was a transformative experience for Adrian.
“The Winter Sports Clinic is first and foremost a sports-based rehabilitation program meant for the participants to see/reconnect with a part of themselves they may have lost due to their injuries. It gives them hope, independence, and self-development,” says Adrian.
When asked what his involvement in the event meant, Adrian reflects, “The primary thing is to volunteer, which was very moving. It takes a whole lot of people to support one participant. You have a number of sports professionals (primarily instructors) to help Veterans excel in whatever sport they want to get involved with – downhill skiing, cross country skiing, curling. I volunteered for curling.”
“I was inspired when I watched how the Veterans would challenge themselves in trying a sport they never attempted before. To see them find that grit that they had in the military was the most inspiring, heart-warming thing to see.”
— Adrian Atizado, TriWest Director of Government Relations.
According to Adrian, there was a hockey rink in Aspen that was set aside for Veterans in wheelchairs to learn the sport of curling. “The instructor gave them background in the sport. For my job, I teamed up with a Veteran named Bob. I was in charge of setting up the stones next to the wheelchair so Bob was able to push the stone towards the button (target) using the curling stick,” says Adrian.
Adrian said Bob was really skilled for someone who just was learning curling. “You could tell he was getting really competitive. When you’re in a wheelchair, being competitive in anything can be daunting. But the way Veterans were introduced to the sports and how the volunteers in the facility were so welcoming, it put them to ease very quickly. We were having a great time,” says Adrian.
Who Can Attend the Clinic
Participation is open to U.S. military Veterans with qualifying disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputation, visual impairments and certain neurological problems. Veterans who currently have inpatient or outpatient status at VA medical facilities have first priority.
“We are proud about our continued involvement as a host sponsor of the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic,” says U.S. Navy Veteran and TriWest Senior Vice President, Strategic Communications and Advocacy, Donna Hoffmeier. “This clinic is a leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for disabled Veterans, promoting world-class health care and rehabilitation.”
“This is another example of how TriWest partners with organizations like DAV and VA to give back to the Veteran and military communities through time and resource commitments that serve as a cornerstone of TriWest’s ‘On a Mission to Serve®’ culture,” says Donna.
Adrian notes that comradery among the participants was extraordinarily evident and the biggest takeaway he received from the clinic. “I was inspired when I watched how the Veterans would challenge themselves in trying a sport they never attempted before. To see them find that grit that they had in the military was the most inspiring, heart-warming thing to see,” explains Adrian.
When watching the Veterans in the downhill skiing training, Adrian witnessed first-hand the independent nature of these disabled athletes.
“If there’s one thing I learned watching them crash or fall down, it’s that they want to get back up on the skis on their own. They are not disabled, they just have different challenges. They’re about being as independent as they can be. When they fall down you have to ask them if they need help; you have to respect that. They live with their challenges, it becomes part of them. The Winter Clinic reminds them they’re more capable than they think they are,” says Adrian.