by Eileen O’Connor, ASF Parent and Board member
When we first brought Erin to the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham Mountain, the goal was for her to participate in an outdoor activity that our family loved. We did not think much beyond that because the fact that someone had volunteered to ski with our special needs daughter for a few hours seemed a miracle and gift in and of itself.
Then one winter, Erin met Ali another ASF participant, who shared her passion for books, Barney and Disney princesses. Erin and Ali would smile and wave to each other as they suited up in the lodge and spend after hours reading and trading books, playing games and piecing together puzzles. This friendship has been one of the greatest gifts of the ASF.
The world is not a very welcoming place to those who move through it with impediments of any kind. It’s hard to find someone patient and understanding enough to overlook cognitive and behavioral challenges. It’s hard enough for anyone to find a real friend these days and a gift beyond measure when it clicks.
In Ali, Erin found a kindred spirit with whom she can talk for hours about Belle and Ariel, Dora and Baby Bop. Someone who doesn’t mind if she asks her the same question 18 times, has trouble containing her excitement for a certain stuffed animal or has trouble parting with her favorite books. Ali gets that. They love each other just the way they are and however harrowing it may feel, have even learned to share their most coveted toys and books with each other.
Erin may never read the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, but well understands his insight: “A friend is a person with whom I can be myself. Before her I may think aloud.” The magic of the ASF is that it provides a safe haven for all participants (and their families) to be themselves, to discover people who will want to hold their hand and to appreciate the words and wisdom of that other famous philosopher, Winnie the Pooh: “It’s so much friendlier with two.”