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Anything is Possible

How the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program turned a life around proving it is about far more than just sports



"I want to be a cartoonist," says Sarah Colpitts as she drinks her hot chocolate. Her parents, Greg and Jill Colpitts, smile and nod, but their eyes are tired Like most parents they want their child to reach her goals, but they know it's going to be a tough ride. Sarah was born with an undiagnosed cognitive disorder, which in very broad terms means she has mental developmental issues. In addition to this, three years ago, Sarah suffered from mental health problems. This meant she had a dual diagnosis that fell outside the conventional realm of most health care providers. Sarah was unable to function in the world around her and her parents didn't know where to turn.

Today she has a regular job in a local cafe, is an artist, an athlete, and a valuable member of Whislter's community. So what happened in those three years that turned tragedy into triumph?

In simple terms the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP) helped Sarah get her life back, and while the story of every person WASP helps is unique, it is also a story about how the organization took an idea before it's time and turned it into a tale of success for the community of Whistler and beyond.

It's a story with many happy endings not least of which was the opening of the Jeff Harbers Adaptive Sports Centre just weeks ago at the Olympic Station on Whistler Mountain. This finally gives WASP a permanent home for both the people behind the organization and all the equipment, which help dreams come true for so many people.

The building will support the program's winter and summer curriculum. With a growth rate of 30 per cent per a year, and interest specifically doubling in alpine activates, this facility was desperately needed.

Jeff Harbers was a former Microsoft executive and president of the American Friends of Whistler. The Harbers family left a bequest to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for $300,000 of which $150,000 was granted to the Jeff Harbers Adaptive Sports Centre. The American Friends of Whistler donated a further $117,000 (including $17,000 from the Anything's Possible Program that was initiated by the American Friends of Whistler's Bill and Barbara Norman) and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation this fall made a further donation of $27,000 to the new incline platform lift that is arriving this month. The September donation of $50,000 by the Harbers Family Trust brought direct funding to $200,000.

WASP had 12,000 lesson days last winter, seeing around 400 people. The interest in Nordic activities also quadrupled, from 30 lessons in 2009, to 120 last year. In the summer it facilitates around 700 lesson days, with participants doing a higher volume and range of sports.