Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) is hosting the 32nd annual The Hartford Ski Spectacular at Beaver Run Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado December 9 – 15. The week-long event is among the nation’s largest and longest running winter adaptive sports festivals for individuals with physical disabilities. More than 800 participants, ranging in ability from first-time skiers to members of the U.S. Paralympic Team, will come together.
Paralympians participating include Brittani Coury, Noah Elliott, Keith Gabel, Michael Spivey and Tyler Carter, all members of Team USA at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. In addition, U.S. paratriathlete and 2016 Paralympic silver medalist Hailey Danz will be at the event.
As part of their rehabilitation, more than 100 wounded military veterans, service members, family and military medical staff from the U.S. and Great Britain will take part in the event. Wounded or injured service members are coming from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center, Naval Medical Center San Diego, Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion, and the Tampa VA. Since 2003, Disabled Sports USA has served more than 15,000 severely wounded or injured veterans, service members and family members, offering nationwide programs in more than 50 different adaptive sports.
One participating wounded military veteran will be retired Air Force Staff Sergeant Dan Acosta. Acosta served seven years as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician. He suffered life threatening injuries that included the loss of his left arm when a roadside bomb detonated as he was disarming multiple IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in a residential neighborhood of Baghdad. He spent the next 30 months at San Antonio Military Medical Center rehabilitating from his injuries. For his service he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
“I actually spent my very first Alive Day in Breckenridge,” said Acosta. “That was the milestone that just really was the tipping point to want to live happy. From coming to re-learn how to walk and spending my first alive day snowboarding was just awesome. I’m thrilled to return to The Hartford Ski Spectacular to snowboard and support other wounded veterans.”
“Learn to” programs in alpine and Nordic skiing, biathlon, sled hockey, curling and snowboarding will be offered. In addition, The Hartford Ski Spectacular also strengthens and expands adaptive snow sports programs in communities across the country by training staff and volunteers at DSUSA chapters through the National Adaptive Academy. The ski instructor academy, endorsed by Professional Ski Instructors of America -American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI), offers training for instructors in the latest and safest adaptive ski and snowboard techniques for individuals with disabilities.
“We are delighted to offer this unique event thanks to The Hartford and our generous supporters,” says Glenn Merry, executive director of DSUSA. “The Hartford Ski Spectacular launches the adaptive sport winter season and is an ideal event for individuals with disabilities to receive world-class instruction in skiing and snowboarding. This event is essential to supporting athletes achieve their goals and gain independence through sports.”
The Hartford is a leading provider of group disability insurance and has a long-held belief that sports are an important part of physical rehabilitation following a disabling illness or injury. At the event, The Hartford, through its Ability Equipped program, will give more than $100,000 in adaptive sports equipment to community-based organizations and youth athletes with disabilities. Ability Equipped, named a 2019 Rings of Gold award recipient by U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, is a $2.2 million program that enables individuals with disabilities to experience the life-changing power of sports by making adaptive sports equipment available nationwide.
“The Hartford is honored to be the title sponsor of this incredible event for the 26th consecutive year,” said Jonathan Bennett, head of Group Benefits at The Hartford. “Our partnership with DSUSA spans more than two decades and the programs we support together demonstrate our Ability Philosophy, which focuses on what a person can do, versus a perceived limitation. We believe that people are capable of achieving amazing things with the right team, technology and support.”
Through grant support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), DSUSA and other organizations receive funding to increase, expand and enhance the quantity and quality of adaptive sport activities available for disabled veterans and members of the U.S. armed forces to participate in physical activity within their home communities and more advanced U.S. Paralympic and adaptive sport programs at the regional and national levels. VA provides essential equipment and technical support to The Hartford Ski Spectacular. For more information on VA Adaptive Sports programs visit http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports. Event sponsors include: Veritas Capital, Oshkosh Defense, Wash Depot, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Tee It Up for the Troops, Medical Center Orthotics & Prosthetics, Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Breck Sports.
DSUSA’s Host Chapter for the event is Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. Contributing DSUSA chapters include Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports, Mount Snow Adaptive Sports Inc., New England Disabled Sports, Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports, and Wintergreen Adaptive Sports. Partnering organizations include Professional Ski Instructors of America-American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI), Vail Adaptive Sports, USA Curling and Colorado Adaptive Sports Foundation.