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Ability on the slopes

Joanna HartmanSierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun Disabled Sports USA instructor Andy Robbins helps direct Courtney Caprio, 18, at Alpine Meadows Sunday morning. Caprio, who is visually impared and austitic from Carmel, Calif., has been skiing with Disabled Sports USA, formerly the Adaptive Ski School for 10 years.
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Barreling down an unmaintained dirt road 16 years ago, Elizabeth Twaddells bus lost its brakes and careened off a 600-foot cliff, crashing into a river in the Andes mountains of South America.The Los Gatos resident knew immediately her back was broken. At 24 years old, Twaddell not only lost a chance to experience Machu Picchu, but also a life as an active, able-bodied woman.Fast forward 16 years a former district attorney, wife and mother of two daughters Twaddell makes life in a wheelchair look easy. She recently purchased property in Tahoe to build a home and thinks she should learn to ski. Twaddell signed up with Disabled Sports USA on Dec. 17 to kick off this seasons adaptive snowsports program.Fortunately for people like Twaddell, Disabled Sports USA gets individuals with disabilities, ranging from paraplegia to autism, out and on the mountain.Im a firm believer in establishing as much independence as possible … we believe in providing affordable recreation for all, said Dave Owings, Disabled Sports USA Far West program coordinator.

Steve and Robin Cavagnolo, of San Francisco, raise their 5-year-old grandson, Collin, who they describe as having off the charts attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, extreme anxiety and emotional disturbance.This is beyond amazing, Robin Cavagnolo said. Within a space of 10 minutes [the instructors] were able to put Collin at ease … they made him happy and excited, and responsive to their instruction.

Following the Vietnam War, a man named Jim Winthers brought several veterans to Tahoe area ski slopes to learn to cope with their newfound disabilities. Established in 1967, Disabled Sports USA continued its dedication to helping disabled individuals gain confidence, mobility and independence through sports and activity. The organization now has more than 85 chapters and serves 60,000 people in the United States the nations largest nonprofit, multi-sport and multi-disability organization.Previously known as Tahoe Adaptive Ski School, Disabled Sports recently dropped the name of its snowsports program to eliminate confusion, said Program Director Haakon Lang-Ree. Disabled Sports offers watersport, cycling, golf, rafting, off-road and snowsport adventures throughout the year. The winter portion of their programming is based at Alpine Meadows.

Steve Hornsey has been an athlete all his life. He plays on a competitive hockey team, has won watersport championships and can ski any terrain at Alpine. Even his work is really play Hornsey has been the Access Leisure program coordinator in Sacramento for the last six years. Access Leisure is an activity program for people with disabilities in Sacramento. Hornsey tears it up on a mono-ski, in a handcycle or via wheelchair. He has been involved with Disabled Sports for more than 20 years, both as a student and an instructor.It goes back to the motto If I can do this, I can do anything, Hornsey said. I really believe that is the feeling you get when youre out there.Hornsey was injured in a dirtbiking accident in 1980 but continues to live an active, adventurous life, thanks in part to the Disabled Sports organization.The Cavagnolos agree the adaptive sports program is important in facilitating physical and psychological rehabilitation through sports and social activity for their grandson.Were big fans from here on out, they said.


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