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WASP continues to build capacity

Rotarians bring in expert for instructor-training session

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Offering programs for people with cognitive disabilities is particularly challenging, which is why it is also so rewarding, says Fox.

"One of the philosophies to therapeutic programs like this (is they) can help people to advance their goals in life," she said. "The immediate goal is to go skiing, but that’s just the vehicle. What if you linked learning skiing with learning to read? It may seem like a stretch, but learning to read is about progression and concentration and reaching little goals along the way, like in skiing.

"The idea is to take these skills they learn on the hill and apply them. And there are other benefits, like socialization, accessibility, independence and confidence."

Fox’s involvement with WASP was funded by the International Skiing Fellowship of the Rotarians, as well as the Rotary Club of Whistler. The Rotarians have held fundraisers for WASP for five years, and in the past year have raised $11,000 – $5,000 to help cover the cost of an elevator at Olympic Station to get disabled skiers to the chairlift and magic carpet, $5,000 to the B.C. Disabled Ski Team for uniforms, and $1,000 for cross-country skier Tyler Mosher, who is looking to compete at home in the 2010 Paralympics.

"We’ve been involved with WASP for five years now, from helping the cabin get built, to getting the equipment… and we will remain involved," said Ross Harlow, the incoming president of the Rotary Club of Whistler. "We’re always impressed when we come out here to see all the good work that WASP is doing, and the dedication of the people involved. I think more volunteer work has gone into this than most people realize, and they deserve all the support they can get."

While Scotiabank is one of WASP’s biggest financial contributors, there’s no denying the fact that Whistler-Blackcomb makes the program possible.

According to ski school general manager Otto Kamstra, their role is to provide behind the scenes support for the program – hiring and paying instructors, providing logistical and administrative support, purchasing uniforms, and incorporating WASP into decision making.

"It’s not a money making program even though it’s busy, it does run a negative balance and we cover that," Kamstra said.

"We support the workers and volunteers with uniforms, human resources, and things like that…so WASP can focus on fundraising and delivering a top product."

One example of how WASP is incorporated into Whistler-Blackcomb decisions is the 600-foot magic carpet at Olympic Station. The standard width for a carpet is 45 cm (18 inches), but the company decided to go with a 76 cm (30-inch) version to meet the needs of disabled skiers.

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