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Ski event lifts disabled

February 24, 1999

Seth ConnerBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photos: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




MERCERSBURG, Pa. - At 43, Wayne Beachy is approaching what he called the "50-50 stage" - spending half his life walking and half in a wheelchair.

"The guy driving the car fell asleep at the wheel and I didn't have a seatbelt on," the former Marine said Tuesday of the accident that left him paralyzed at age 22.

Beachy wasn't using a wheelchair Tuesday. Strapped into the bucket seat of a mono-ski and using handheld outriggers, he raced deftly down a slalom course at Whitetail Ski Resort.

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"When I ski, I feel like the old me, in a way," the Baltimore County, Md., man said.

Beachy said he hunted and fished after the crash, but it was years before he got involved in disabled sports.

Beachy was among dozens of disabled skiers who came to the resort for the Eighth Annual Disabled Sports USA Whitetail Ski Spectacular, an event where they are introduced to skiing and snowboarding, or hone their skills with instructors.

The three days of clinics began Monday, according to Mary Martin of Middletown, Md., the event coordinator. She also coordinates handicapped programs at the resort.

J.D. BrownWhile most of the skiers at Tuesday morning's session were experienced, the afternoon session would include more than a dozen first-time skiers from an elementary school in Lanham, Md., Martin said.

"We just feel everybody should have an opportunity to ski," Martin said. She said the program is also a social outlet for participants like Richard Marshall, a 16-year-old high school student from Silver Spring, Md.

"You get to get out and meet new people," Marshall said as he chatted with Martin's daughter, Jackie. Disabled by a car accident when he was 3, Marshall has been skiing five years, although he was nursing some bumps and bruises Tuesday.

"I hurt my elbow on a rock or a chunk of ice," he said, adding that he'd hurt his wrist at another resort the week before.

In a spray of powdered snow, Seth Conner of Pittsburgh ended one of his runs. The 17-year-old has been skiing for eight years and said he's been training to race for the past two.

Conner, who has spina bifida, said he needs a couple more years of training before he's ready to race competitively.

"I didn't think I was ever going to ski again. Now I'm racing against the Disabled Olympic Ski Team and instructing," said Kelly Dominic, 36, of Pittsburgh. Dominic was active in several sports before she was partially paralyzed while giving birth.

"I started out in one of these kinds of clinics," she said.

Jim Leatherman, 38, of Baltimore, lost both legs when he was run over by a train at age 6. Now an instructor who travels to the various clinics, he has also won gold and bronze medals in national and international competitions in racquetball, basketball and sailing.

"You'll see a lot of people that are independent skiers because of the efforts of people like Mary," Leatherman said of Martin and the other instructors, staff and volunteers who helped stage the event.

"Programs like this are really the grassroots," said Kathy Celo, the program services manager for Disabled Sports USA. With 81 chapters across the country, her organization represents 1,400 disabled athletes in sports ranging from powerlifting to table tennis.

With programs for novices and advanced skiers, events like the one at Whitetail help develop the Paralympic champions of the future, Celo said.

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