DFW Airport — Over a dozen teenagers departed DFW Airport on their journey to Colorado for the Scottish Rite’s annual Amputee Ski Trip on Monday, Feb. 10.
Fourteen teenage patients, as well as medical staff and hospital chaperones, will spend a week at the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, Colorado. The trip started when Scottish Rite for Children chief of staff emeritus John A. “Tony” Herring, M.D., had the idea for the event.
“[Dr. Herring] had gone to an orthopedic conference where adaptive skiing had been featured,” Don Cummings, head of the prosthetic division at Scottish Rite for Children, said. “He came back saying that’d be a great idea, and we needed to take some of our kids there. So they got a group and took them up there that year. There were 14 kids, and we went to the NSCD.
“The National Sports Center for the disabled is one of the premier adaptive sports centers in the U.S. and they specialize in skiing. They took a group up the first year to see how it worked, and 39 years later, we still continue to do it.
“NSCD has instructors trained in whatever adaptive type of skiing the patients are doing. If they teach someone to ski on one leg without riggers, [the instructors] have to learn how to ski like that themselves. They do blind skiing, so if they have to teach a visually impaired student, they have to learn how to ski without sight, being blindfolded. It’s a really unique program. We’re trying to make sure the instructors completely understand the disability and how to adapt equipment and how to train somebody to ski that way.”
For the past 15 years, American Airlines has provided transportation for the trip. The teens were sent off with a Star Wars-themed party, which included photo ops with members of the local 501st Legion Star Wars cosplay group and the DFW Airport K-9 Crew.
“I speak for all of my American Airline colleagues when I say it’s a delight for all of us to be part of today’s event,” Bruce Sickler, chairperson of Employees with Disabilities Resource Group, said. “Each year we host this event, all of us at American Airlines grow even more inspired by the exceptional teenagers who participate. It’s truly an honor for us to assist such a great group of people.”
For many teens, this is their first time on the trip. But some teens, like Cody McCasland, are already veteran skiers.
“I’m very excited to get to go back for my fourth year on the ski trip,” McCastland said. “It’s just such an amazing trip to get to see everyone improve or getting to try skiing or snowboarding for their first time and getting to see all the smiles and everyone just having such a great time, overcoming their challenges and being able to ski and board and do whatever they want.
“The NSCD is such an amazing place. They have tons of amazing volunteers that help you do whatever you want. They know how to help people without legs ski, snowboard, ski bike. Anything that you want to do, they will teach you how to do it right. There’s no such thing as a challenge or a disability there, they don’t let you say no.”
But it’s about so much more than hitting the slopes for some winter fun. Cummings said this trip is really about giving kids the chance to bond with other kids just like them.
“The skiing is really just an excuse to get the group up there,” Cummings said. “It’s really more about the relationships that get built and the understanding they gain from each other. And nowadays they come back and they’re on social media with each other. They have this support group going on that continues on and on, so many of them stay in touch for years and years afterwards.”