By Cayla Newkirk
For my friends and family back home in Texas it is hard to understand how I can enjoy an internship that is located where the temperature never reaches above freezing. However, with new adventures every day, I sometimes forgot I was so far away from home. This entire internship experience has been one I will never forget as Adaptive Sports Foundation (ASF) welcomed me into their family and allowed me to enjoy my time here while also challenging me to grow beyond my limits.
I chose ASF as my internship site because they work so closely with Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). For the past five years as my education has advanced, I have started focusing on specific career goals that are directed toward encouraging physical activity for those with disabilities, specifically injured military personnel. The Adaptive Sports Foundation presented a perfect location.
During my second week I was thrown right into helping with the Wounded Warrior Family weekend by organizing paperwork, goodie bags, helping with check-in, and other random tasks. It was an eye-opening experience to see all the behind scene work that goes on for an event that large. During the event as I watched instructors who were wounded warriors themselves teach warriors. Witnessing warriors training warriors really helped me to see the Wounded Warrior Project (ASF’s partner in their Warrior in Motion programs) logo (one soldier carrying another) come to life. I enjoyed seeing many of the warriors return to ASF for other programs throughout the winter season that allowed for them to improve on their skiing or riding skills.
In late February I was able to teach my first official snowboarding lesson to a young girl with cancer. Yes, it might seem a little late in the winter to be teaching my first solo lesson, but don’t forget this is my first season in the mountains. This was a very special time for me as I was able to bond with her, and for a little bit of time, allow her to forget about some of her health concerns that has held her back. She allowed me to gain confidence in my instructing abilities and apply all that I have learned this past winter into a lesson. Thanks to Russ and Lois Huntington we were also able to go tubing with the children, which was my first experience at a snow tubing park.
As my internship at ASF came to an end, I had nothing but butterflies in my stomach when I look back on all that I was involved in. I survived one of the coldest winters with record snow. I was able to “play” on those nice powder days. I experienced the “mountain life” work schedule, I met some of the nicest people with the most giving hearts, I saw how a successful non-profit organization is run. I met a 17 year-old Paralympic athlete who competed in Paralympic Games in Sochi. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but as you have read I am up for anything. I am going to start applying for jobs that focus on physical health and wellness for those who have a disability, but until then I will be volunteering with the Adaptive Sports Foundation throughout the summer.