Norm Reynolds is a Vietnam Veteran, and certified ski instructor who volunteers at Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. BOEC, is a non-profit organization that runs a winter ski program and numerous summer activities for people with disabilities. Most of the volunteer opportunities are in the winter, teaching people how to ski or snowboard in the Breckenridge/Keystone, Colorado ski areas.
He and his wife Chris became involved years ago when they lived in the area. Although they have since moved to the valley, he has been involved with the program for fifteen seasons. Norm claims one of the benefits of volunteering was instantly becoming associated with a lot of really good people of all ages. He is a big advocate regarding the benefits of this organization.
“Our clients are mostly disabled in one way or another, but there are groups of youths at risk, local children groups, and others who may be disadvantaged but not disabled.”
When asked what type of volunteer positions were needed at BOEC, Norm said, “There are other volunteer opportunities besides being a ski instructor. Many jobs include getting adaptive equipment up the lift, and skiing down with the instructor and the student. Some of the clients need help getting on the ski lift, and a hand up if they fall. It is not necessary to understand the specific disability. There are resources to tell you what you need to know. New volunteers are usually assisting an experienced instructor. Focus is placed on what the student can do, not on what they can not do.”
“There are different events where groups come for several days. Many of them are wounded veterans and their families. These are the events I try not to miss, as I find them to be the most fun as well as rewarding. Most veterans aren’t afraid of sliding down a hill, and the ones we work with are usually well motivated and in good shape.”
“One of the most rewarding people to ski with are those who have recently lost a leg, and figure if they can ski, they can do anything. Once they realize they can do it, they get really excited and work very hard. It is not easy, but it isn’t as hard as it looks.”
The program Norm is discussing which is one of his favorites is the Wounded Warriors Family Ski Week. This year the scheduled dates are April 6th – April 11th. This event is hosted by Wounded Warrior Family Adventures. It is an all-expense paid week of skiing and/or snowboarding for wounded warriors and their families. Ski lessons are provided by the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
When Norm and I met to discuss his experiences with Breckenridge Outdoor Educational Center, I could tell he was easy going but also dedicated to helping inspire someone with a disability. He is willing to sleep on a couch when needed, in order to participate in a BOEC event. His pocket calendar has the popular saying, “Keep calm and carry on.” This combination, including being veteran, helps to create a safe learning environment for the student to accomplish what may seem impossible.
I asked him if he had a standout ski experience he wanted to share. He said, “One British vet fell and his prosthetic leg fell off. Several spectators gathered in shock and he said, lying on his back in the snow, in his best Monty Python imitation, ‘It’s all right. It’s only a flesh wound.'”
Thank you, Norm, for volunteering your time and ski experience. And thank you, and all of our veterans for serving our country.
For more information regarding events year round, including brain injury camps and retreats, and volunteer opportunities: www.boec.org/