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Empowering the whole family through adaptive sports

By Eileen O’Connor
Member of the ASF Board of Trustees
Chair of the ASF Parents’ Committee
ASF Parent

The Adaptive Sports Foundation means so much to our family, not only because it gives our daughter, Erin, who has Autism, an opportunity to do something everyone else in our family does but almost more so because it has enabled our sons to see so many differently abled people and families who are in the same boat as us.  It has allowed us to discover so many dynamic people who are at the ASF to accept and celebrate our family just the way we are.

The ASF and by extension Windham Mountain is a place which accepts and celebrates differences, however that difference may present itself.  We are all welcome. 

For our family the importance of this cannot be overstated!   I feel like we all breathe a little easier when we are at the ASF and in Windham.  Not just because of that clean Catskill air but because unlike pretty much everywhere else we go, the fact that Erin and our family are different is just not a big deal.  In fact, it’s something to be celebrated.

One of my favorite pictures of our kids was taken about five or six years ago at one of the Hartman races.  It shows the boys gathered around Erin who’s wearing a big gold medal around her neck and beaming.  They were so excited and so proud of their sister.  The world outside of this bubble does not afford them a lot of opportunities like that. But thankfully we have it here at the ASF!

The boys have grown up watching Erin skiing with and being cheered on by her “green instructors.”  They have seen so many of our family friends’ kids, parents and grandparents donate their time and energy to volunteer as ASF instructors.

And this season our son, Will, earned a green jacket of his very own and joined the ranks of the ASF volunteer instructor family.

Our boys, particularly, Will who is only 17 months younger than Erin, have grown up watching at arm’s length as Erin worked with therapists, visited special gyms and participated in what looked like some pretty enticing activities to a younger brother.

When he was little, Will used to bang on the family room door when Early Intervention therapists would come to our apartment with lots of fun, brightly colored toys to work with Erin.  When I’d drag him to Erin’s special sensory gyms he’d want to dive into the ball pit and jump on the platform swing.  When we took Erin to a therapeutic riding classes he’d hang over the fence trying to just pet her horse.  He always wanted in on the action and the fun and games.

At the ASF Will finally has a chance to get in on the action, the fun and to make a difference.

There is not much Will or his brothers can do about Erin’s condition.  However, the ASF changes that.  At the ASF there is something they can do.  They can transform and brighten a day for someone like Erin and for a family like ours.  Our boys know now what a difference this can make in the life of a family. What a difference it can make for a mom, a dad, a brother or a sister of a person with Autism, or Downs Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy or for a Vet who navigates life as a double amputee.  It means the world.

When it comes to talking about their sisters, special needs or not, teenage boys are not particularly emotive.  But I know how much it means to Will to finally jump in and feel that he can do something.

From our family to yours, THANK YOU for making that possible.