The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is the largest rehabilitative program of its kind in the world today. It utilizes adapted physical activities as well as workshops and educational sessions to aid in the rehabilitation of severely disabled veterans. Activities such as Alpine and Nordic skiing, Snowmobiling, scuba diving, fly fishing, wheelchair golf, wheelchair self defense, rock wall climbing, sled hockey, trap shooting, blues harmonica instruction, dog sledding, goal ball for the visually impaired, wheelchair fencing and amputee volleyball, are a small portion of adapted sports and activities that have been offered in the past 31 years.
The clinic targets disabled veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, neurological disorders, and visual impairments. The Winter Sports Clinic experience improves physical well being, mental health and self-esteem, thereby enabling veterans with profound disabilities to re-discover life after disability. The Winter Sports Clinic assists in achieving higher levels of self-actualization and empowers the veteran participant to live a happier, healthier and more productive lifestyle.
This innovative clinic when first introduced was not readily accepted by the conventional health care mindset. The concept of utilizing challenging adaptive activities in a winter outdoor environment was so new and outside of traditional medical care that many doubted it could succeed and be accepted as an alternative to routine medical intervention. Many believed that the logistical concerns alone of caring for, housing, feeding, transferring and transporting severely injured veterans were insurmountable. However, through creative problem solving, hard work and force of will barriers were not just overcome, they were literally torn down. After the first Winter Sports Clinic in 1987, it became obvious that this form of therapy was capable of meeting the physical and psycho/social needs of the most seriously disabled, as well as motivating individuals who do not respond to more traditional forms of therapy.
The plan is simple. Move over 325 disabled veterans from the airport, to their lodging, to all scheduled activities and then create handicap access within a winter environment. Buses were specially adapted for wheelchairs. Special loading chairs were developed to transfer wheelchair veterans in and out of buses and on and off airplanes. Volunteers were trained in every aspect of the clinic to guarantee all the needs of the disabled veterans were met. The goal was easy, move all participants through scheduled activities with ease, seamlessly, on time, and with as little inconvenience to the veteran as possible. This event really should not work because it is just so difficult to manage. It works because of the strong support of our Co-sponsors the Department of Veterans Affairs and the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and the tireless dedication of all of our generous corporate sponsors and unselfish volunteers.
The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports has drastically changed the lives of thousands of disabled veterans and just as important has altered the perception the general public has of people with disabilities.