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“He can’t. He shouldn’t. He won’t be able to ski.” But he does.

Written by Penny Besso

My name is Penny Besso and my son’s name is Scotty. He is 30 years old and severely mentally challenged. He is also a skier thanks to the adaptive ski program offered by the Adaptive Sports Foundation.

Not being a skier myself, when Scotty is out skiing I wait for him in the magnificent Adaptive Sports Center. It provides a warm cozy environment, although not as warm as the feeling I get when I see Scotty skiing towards the lift with a big smile on his face. Here I can share my son’s experience with other parents that have their own children in the program. What a joy it is for us to see our children gain self esteem and enjoy a sport that family members can do together. The fact that family members can share this experience is in, and of itself, miraculous. Seeing Scotty ski is a high point of my husband Vic’s ski season. I can assure you that the Adaptive Sports Center is filled with a lot of smiling faces from family and friends.

When you are the parent of a special child you hear a lot of “He can’t. He shouldn’t. He won’t.” The ASF ski program at Windham has none of that language in its vocabulary and this proactive philosophy has made dreams come true for Vic and me.

It takes really special people to donate their time to help individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities. This is how I characterize ASF volunteers: infinitely patient, optimistic, upbeat and engaging. ASF volunteers treat pupils with respect and applaud them for accompishments that others might not see. ASF volunteers take precious time away from their own families to enrich their lives with an extended family. And on top of all that, volunteers have to be athletic. Its almost seems to much too ask. Yet, year after year, ASF volunteers return to teach a population that would have been destined to be the audience.

Scotty is our only child. We used to feel cheated, believing that Scotty would not be able to participate in the fun things that normal people do. The ASF program has given Vic and Scotty father/son moments that most people take for granted. My husband still gets choked up when he’s skiing down the mountain with his son: Scotty in his sit-ski and Vic by his side. It doesn’t get any better than that. Because of ASF, Scotty is no longer standing on the sidelines. He is the skier and we are the spectators. The feeling you get when you watch your son, who everyone said would never ski, ski down a mountain to cheering crowds is indescribable.

“Our son Scotty starts shaking and laughing as soon as we mention the word skiing,” said Vic. “Imagine the joy he feels when he gets into the sit-ski, gets on the lift with the music blasting, and hears his father shouting words of encouragement besides him. Most importantly he has the support, guidance and encouragement of ASF volunteers. Thank you all so very much, from the bottom of my heart, for making this such a beautiful life experience fo our son.”