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Nonprofit organization teaches and provides recreational opportunities to people with disabilities

August 31, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com

From the time Bill Dietrich formed the Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation in 2007, his mission has included teaching those with physical disabilities how to ski.

Doing so is not much different than teaching someone without disabilities to take to the slopes, Dietrich said this week.

“Skiing being a gravity sport, it’s how the person approaches it, whether they’re disabled or not,” he said. “Gravity doesn’t care if you’re standing up or on a mono-ski.

“We are really just teaching skiing and adapting it to them with their disability,” said Dietrich, the program’s executive director. “You need to be centered and balanced on your skis and initiate your turn in the same fashion.”

The pupils use equipment for assistance when necessary.

The Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation is a nonprofit organization that teaches sports to children and adults with mental and/or physical disabilities, while providing them with recreational opportunities.

Dietrich said that he founded the organization while he was Alpine manager at Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, Pa.

He said that Mac Jackson, Whitetail’s snow sports director, put him in charge of the resort’s Adaptive Program early in 2007. That spring he visited the Adaptive Spring Rally in Killington, Vt., and the Adaptive Sports Foundation in Windham, N.Y., before forming the organization in August.

“It’s been incredibly refreshing to get involved in the adaptive world,” he said. “Taking somebody with a disability and having them learn and smile, and want to come back is incredibly rewarding.”

At least one person with the program, Aaron Howell, is now training for the U.S. Paralympic team, Dietrich said.

“We try to recognize potential athletes that we can encourage to continue in the sport,” he said.

Since the program formed, it has grown to include summer activities such as fly fishing, kayaking, cycling and golf.

“It’s kind of just been growing every year,” Dietrich said. “The growth of the program has been phenomenal.”

The program, which is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, also has a Wounded Warrior Project, which involves working with wounded service personnel at Whitetail.

Tom Riford — president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau who also helps train program instructors how to teach skiing to people with disabilities — said the program won the Spirit of Hope Award in November, 2012.

That award is the highest given by the U.S. Army to honor individuals and programs that have dedicated “considerable time” to U.S. service members.

“That speaks volumes for the program’s significance, and what it means for the wounded,” Riford said.

The visitors bureau, which is a charter and founding sponsor of the program, provides hotel rooms in Hagerstown for wounded service members when they go to Whitetail for the winter sports, he said.

“These heroes don’t have to pay any more because they’ve already paid enough,” Riford said. “This program is about giving back and helping military personnel who have been wounded.”

He described working with the program as an opportunity to “give joy to those who may have experienced great tragedy.”

“We look at people who are handicapped as ‘differently-abled,’” he said. “All the equipment provides is an opportunity for them to move the way everybody else does.”

In addition to the kayaking event held Friday at Indian Springs, the foundation has additional water sports events scheduled in the area, according to its website at www.twotopadaptive.org/.

They include:

• Skiing on the Potomac River at Dam No. 4 in Williamsport for people at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 6

• Adaptive Kayaking for wounded servicemen and disabled veterans at Pinchot State Park on Saturday, Sept. 7

• Water Skiing at Fort Belvoir on Friday, Sept. 20.

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