On April 15, 2013, two bombs detonated near the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon killing three individuals and wounding several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs. Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) created the Boston Strong Adaptive Sports initiative to offer grants and access to events for marathon survivors with permanent physical disabilities.
Five years later, the Boston Strong Adaptive Sports Initiative, which has supported a dozen individuals, is still supporting survivors. One of them is Steve Woolfenden, who was invited to the 2013 Ski Spectacular organized by Disabled Sports USA a little over six months after the below-the-knee amputation of his left leg. Although he had skied before the bombing, the Breckenridge, Colorado, event inspired him to get back on the snow. “To me, it wasn’t whether I could do it, but if I would like the way I would have to do it versus before—or whether I would have the passion for it, and I do, even more so,” Woolfenden said.
Woolfenden speaks highly of the event, one of the largest winter adaptive sports festivals in the country. “I had good mentors when I got back on the snow. There are few opportunities that will provide you with that level of instruction to get you back.” He has tried three-tracking and four tracking but prefers two-tracking when it comes to his skiing preference.
His last time at Ski Spec allowed him to participate in education courses through the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). His goal is to become a PSIA-certified Level I instructor and is working towards earning it. That passion has led him to volunteer with Spaulding Adaptive Sports program and coach lessons at Waterville Valley and other locations, where he is being mentored by other instructors.
In addition to snow sports, he is passionate about road cycling, mountain biking, and swimming. “I do run, but don’t consider myself a runner.” Woolfenden has started handcycling and have participated in one century ride.
DSUSA helped purchase a prosthesis for use in the water. “Insurance will cover everyday prosthetics but typically not athletic one. This really allowed me to accomplish one of my goals of participating in a triathlon,” he said. In addition, it allowed him to swim with his family, including his son, Leo.
Leo is a second-grader who is active and enjoys sports and recreation. The two of them, as well as Woolfenden’s wife Amber enjoy doing sports as a family. In addition to his every day leg, he has the water leg, a running leg, and a ski specific leg that allows him to pursue adaptive sports. “I didn’t dwell on what I couldn’t do. DSUSA has just been one of the biggest supporters of me and some of the other survivors,” he said.