Reece Drapeau, visually impaired, gets some instruction from Steve “Cowboy” Piersch, during a ski lesson at Sundown Mountain Resort, in Dubuque
Kaily Ramage hopped off the chairlift, turned right and shot back down the hill with her instructor by her side. Sunday, it didn’t matter that Kaily’s left leg was prosthetic.
The Dubuque girl was skiing.
“She just keeps going and going — it’s amazing,” said Kari Ramage, Kaily’s mom. “She’s tried other sports, but this just clicked. I think she found her sport.”
Sunday’s skiing clinic at Sundown Mountain was part of an adaptive sports open gym day held by the City of Dubuque’s Leisure Services Department.
The event gave Reece and Ryder Drapeau, of Dubuque, a chance to learn the basics of skiing, even though a genetic, degenerative retinal disease makes the boys severely visually impaired.
“They do everything they can possibly do,” Bryce Drapeau said of his sons, Reece, 8, and Ryder, 6. “They ride bikes without training wheels and ride snowmobiles.
Sunday, adaptive ski instructor Rob Wagner, of North Liberty, Iowa, was explaining the rudiments of skiing to the boys.
“French fries,” Wagner said.
Ryder set his skis parallel, close together — the form necessary to help him slide down the slope.
“Pizza,” Wagner said.
Ryder turned the tips of his skis inward — a helpful maneuver for stopping.
“Now, follow my voice,” Wagner said.
The boys can make out some shadows and colors. Wagner wore blaze orange to help them follow him along.
“It’s great to have someone who can train a blind skier,” Bryce said.
Wagner has been teaching adaptive skiing techniques for 32 years.
“I started with the vets coming back from Vietnam — there were amputees and paraplegics,” Wagner said.
Alayna Darter, 9, of Dubuque, used a walker with skis attached to the bottom to spend this afternoon skiing.
Alayna has spina bifida. She likes to go fast while skiing, according to her mom, Jolene.
“She started skiing when she was 3 or 4,” Jolene said. “It’s great.”
While Alayna and Kaily zipped down the hill, Aulanda Krause watched Wagner work with Reece and Ryder on the beginner’s slope.
Krause is a special-education teacher in Dubuque and a member of ARK Advocates, a local nonprofit organization focused on the needs of people with disabilities. Krause organized the adaptive sports day.
“We need to bring awareness of what’s available in adaptive sports,” Krause said.
Adaptive sports can open numerous activities to people, thanks to specialized equipment and training.
Kaily was born without a fibula, and her leg was amputated at age 5 months.
Kari said her daughter keeps trying new sports — bicycling and tennis among them.
“She’s met a lot of good friends, and she’s had fun,” Kari said.
Source: TH online