Ski program gets disabled moving

January 11, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- You have to really squint to spot Maj. David Rozelle among the other skiers on the slopes at Whitetail Resort.

Rozelle approaches as fast and nimbly as most anyone, and it's not until the athletic U.S. Army soldier is about 10 feet away that it becomes noticeable he's different.

He's only using one ski.

"Skiing was more important to me than walking at the time," Rozelle said, talking about his recovery from below-knee amputation.

Rozelle, injured by a land mine in June 2003, contacted Whitetail Resort two years ago to learn about any programs it offered for people with disabilities. He met resort ski instructor Bill Dietrich and assisted in the development of an organization to help people with a wide range of needs.

"We're still new, small, can't do large numbers," Dietrich said.

What Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation can do is give the sport -- and perhaps a sense of freedom -- back to the disabled, one or two people at a time.


Dietrich obtained nonprofit 501(c)(3) status in August 2007 and purchased more than $5,000 worth of adaptive ski equipment from Colorado. "Three track" couples one traditional ski with ski-tipped poles called outriggers. "Bi-skis" allow students to sit while tethered to instructors who help to guide.

"One leg, two legs, it doesn't make any difference," Dietrich said.

Two dozen volunteers, joined by Special Olympics coaches, participated in training this weekend to learn skills needed to work with the disabled. Carman Lambert, of Annapolis attempted the bi-ski so she could better understand how students feel.

"I'm an able-bodied skier, but I think that this is a way to teach people how to do this, to learn how to do it yourself," she said.

"We work with all forms of disabilities, whether they're cognitive, hyperactive, autistic, blind, hearing-impaired. We work with amputees," Dietrich said.

His latest effort has been to establish and promote day trips for wounded warriors.

"We're looking to bring small groups of young men and women up out of Bethesda (Md.) or Walter Reed (Army Medical Center)," Dietrich said.

He's also hoping to secure corporate sponsorships or other donations toward additional equipment. His lofty goal is to build a structure dedicated to the program.

"What I see is the ability for them to grow this," Rozelle said.

Rozelle returned to Iraq after his rehabilitation and became the first amputee to take combat command on the same battlefield in recent military history. He wrote "Back in Action: An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude."

"For me, personally, I've been able to do a lot of good in the last five years," Rozelle said while describing his pride in watching the adaptive program expand at Whitetail Resort.

As far as the skiing, Rozelle said he grew up with the activity and figured he could learn to do it just as well on one leg.

"It's a part of life," he said, then said his goodbyes and hopped onto the chairlift again.

Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation

675 Mower Road

Chambersburg, PA 17202

717-328-9400, ext. 3582

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