By Karen and Rich Elder, parents of Zach Elder, ASF snowboard team member and ASF volunteers
As they used to say on the hit 1980’s TV show, the A Team – “I love it when a plan comes together.”
On January 7, three amazing organizations came together to make the first official Special Olympics New York snowboarding event happen at Windham Mountain. It was a great partnership between Special Olympics New York, the Adaptive Sports Foundation, and the Basil family of the United States of America Snowboard – Freeski Association’s (ASASA) Catskill Mountain Series. Bob Basil, founder and director of the USASA’s Catskill Mountain Series, has always told us that snowboarding and the USASA are about competition, fun, family, friends, and community, and this event demonstrated what a special community it represents. This was a truly unified event with our racers on the same course, on the same day, and at the same time with “able” bodied and Paralympic athletes. Hopefully, it can be a model for other events and venues.
It is never easy for multiple organizations to come together to run an event with a single purpose, but, in this case, everyone had a focus — to give Special Olympic athletes a venue to demonstrate their abilities and be part of the larger community. The snowboarding community is the most accepting community we know as they have embraced our racers with vigor and vitality. They even accept skiers, including the coach from the STRIDE program who sent a wonderful chill up everybody’s spines as he single-handedly took Andy down in tandem over difficult Slalom and Giant Slalom courses. We have seen many spectacular things since being exposed to adaptive sports and this is right at the top of the list.
We want to thank the Basil family for opening their doors and risking their reputation to run a wonderful event. We really can’t say enough about what they have done both at the local and national level. Thank you to the leadership of Special Olympics New York who trusted us enough to be part of this event and who brought us Bill, Danielle, Martha, and so many caring staff and volunteers. Thank you to the Adaptive Sports Foundation, which was the sponsoring local Special Olympics Chapter, Pam Greene, who spent many hours in meetings to make this happen, and Russ Funk, who kept our athletes organized at the event. Thank you to Windham Mountain, which has been a stalwart supporter of adaptive sports. We would also like to personally thank “Coach Mary” Bozzone. She has been a huge supporter and proponent of Special Olympics and a bridge between many organizations. Eight years ago she accepted the first snowboarder onto the ASF race team. We’re sure she didn’t realize what she was starting at the time, but we are forever grateful.
Following this event, members of ASF’s Race Team attended Special Olympics New York’s regional games at West Mountain (Queensbury, NY) on January 28. During the Opening Ceremony, Special Olympics New York announced that it will recognize snowboarding and add it to its official list of sponsored sports. This now provides a stepping stone for SONY athletes to be considered for future Special Olympics World Winter Games.