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Local skiers share their love of the sport with disabled
Turlocker Caitlin Cox gets situated in a sit-ski device before hitting the slopes. - photo by Photo Contributed
Over 200 blind, deaf, paraplegic, quadriplegic and developmentally disabled children and adults in Stanislaus county are able to hit the slopes every year as part of the Winter Skiing Unlimited program through the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults.
Specialized ski equipment enables every program participant to get down the slopes, no matter how severe their disability, said Marci Boucher, executive director of the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults. Some skiers only need a trained instructor to guide them down the ski run, while others are able to tackle the slopes through the sit-ski device — a highly modified ski chair apparatus. The program also has a whole range of adapted ski devices designed to allow physically disable skiers to practice the sport as independently as possible.
“Everybody who participates in (the program)... they get tears in their eyes when they talk about. They love it,” said Boucher.
Recently, the program was in desperate need of a new trailer to haul the equipment up the hill to Dodge Ridge. The old trailer had fallen into disrepair and transporting the equipment one piece at a time was difficult, said Boucher. The Rotary Club of Turlock, Turlock Sunrise Rotary and Modesto Sunrise Rotary, donated money along with a matching funds grant from the Rotary District 5220, for the trailer that will allow Winter Skiing Unlimited program volunteers and staff to bring all the heavy equipment, spares, repair tools and safety gear to Dodge Ridge each week of the program.
The Winter Skiing Unlimited program will run from January through March with nine ski days scheduled so far. A group of dedicated volunteers have been instrumental in keeping the program going year after year. Sunsports owner Denis Sodeno has been volunteering with the Winter Skiing Unlimited program for over 20 years.
“It just opens up what they can experience,” said Sodeno. “Unless you’ve been cruising down the hill at 15 to 20 mph with the wind blowing in your hair, you can’t relate.
“(The program participants) find it difficult enough to do daily activities... All of a sudden there’s a whole new dimension you can experience with the body you’ve been given. Your mind expands, your smile expands and you have a whole new perspective on what your life can be.”
With the new trailer, the only thing limiting the number of skiers able to participate in the program is the number of advanced skiers willing to volunteer their time and expertise, according to Sodeno.
“I get to work with a bunch of my friends and have a great time with clients,” said Sodeno about why he continues to volunteer. “You know (the clients) are excited by the looks on their faces. And when they’re excited, it’s contagious.”
For more information about the Winter Skiing Unlimited program or to volunteer, contact Carole McFarlane at the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults at 524-3536 or
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.