Operation High Altitude 2017

Everyone deserves a chance to take a break from daily life, spend time outdoors, and have fun with family and friends. For our Wounded Warriors, these opportunities are hard to come by and often present unique challenges. For one week in June, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra helped 29 Wounded Warriors and their families surmount these challenges, heal, and open possibilities for the future. Active duty service members and veterans from across California converged upon McGee Creek RV Park & Campground for a week of camping and exploring the awe-inspiring therapeutic outdoor recreation of the Eastern Sierra. With the support of volunteers, staff, and the community, Wounded Warriors biked, fished, paddled, and climbed their way to a new sense of strength and confidence. For some, the best part of the week involved accomplishing personal challenges. Marine Corporal Hannah conquered her fear, pushed herself to paddle, and learned to love hand cycling with the support of the group. At the end of the week, Hannah said “I learned I will always have a supportive community ‘family’ even after I get out of the military.” For others, the time spent with family, friends, and comrades was equally rewarding. Daniel and Ellie cheered as their brother, Marine Corporal Z, tackled paddling, climbing, and fishing despite his injuries. For Z, the week highlighted future possibilities, “I learned that even if we are disabled, we can still do great things.” Days of activity and new experiences were complimented by exceptional meals and beautiful evenings in camp. Everyone enjoyed their fresh catch once incorporated into a delicious fish bake. The annual Hootenanny, catered by the crew at Arcularius Ranch, was a great way to celebrate a successful week with Cowboy Poet Larry Maurice and Derik Olson entertaining the crowd.

Once again, the entire Mammoth Lakes community came together to welcome and support our Wounded Warriors and their families. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra would like to thank all of our sponsors, volunteers, and distinguished guests who helped make the 11th Annual Operation High Altitude a success. Thanks especially to McGee Creek Campground, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority, The Breakfast Club, Sierra Mountain Guides, Mammoth Kayaks and Paddleboards, Crowley Lake Fish Camp, Mickey Baron, Jim Leonetti, Joe Bellomo, Jim Elias, Dan Lenging, Bob Klug, Chris Leonard, Bob Wilson, Scott Swett, Jose Marquez, Kevin Peterson, Dwayne Elhers, Bob Wegesser, Fred Kukulus, The Gottwald Family and Arcularius Ranch, Clif Bar, Hive Lip Balm, Canine Companions for Independence, Jeff Meadway, McGee Creek Lodge, Mammoth Mountaineering Supply, Crowley Lake Store, Mammoth Disposal, Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, and our crew of Gourmet Goddesses & Gods: Hilary & Tom Schroeder, Pat Smoogen, Simone Ardouin, Leslie & Jack Markovitz, Kat Kelly, Dick & Betsie Greenwood, Steve & Amy Ambellan, Claudia Chance, Penny Bordokas, Maggie Wahl, and Tricia Diamand. Together, we continued the tradition of changing lives and giving our Wounded Warriors a chance to experience the healing power of our home.

Operation Mountain Freedom 2017

Wounded Warrior Operation Mountain Freedom 2017 welcomed 58 athletes in its 11th year.

Operation Mountain Freedom took to the slopes and trails of Mammoth Lakes January 23rd to January 27th with one goal – to change the lives of Wounded Warriors from across the country. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra rallied a community of support behind 58 injured service members and veterans and their families as they explored the exhilaration of winter sports and the beauty of the snow-covered landscape. With volunteer instructors from DSES and Mammoth Mountain Ski and Snowboard School, athletes spent three days skiing and boarding at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, many for the first time since their injuries. Whether skiing or snowboarding, Wounded Warriors pushed themselves to take on challenges and develop new skills. Marine veteran, Ronnie, applied his experience as a competitive hand-cyclist to mono skiing. “I had the time of my life learning a new passion on the snow,” he said. Eighty-seven-year-old Korean War veteran Bing found his ski bike exhilarating and inspiring saying “if I can do what I did on this trip, I can do most everything else.”

In addition to alpine skiing at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Wounded Warriors and their families spent a morning Nordic skiing at Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center. Blanketed in fresh snow and bluebird skies, the forests and vistas of the lakes basin combined solace and smiles with the physical challenge of skiing. By contrast, the afternoon flying down the tracks at Woolly’s Tube Park was a raucous affair. Throughout the week, DSES and the entire Mammoth Lakes community took every opportunity to honor our Wounded Warriors and their families for their exemplary service and encourage them on the next steps of their journey. Captain Frank Frievalt and the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department along with DSES volunteer Alan Yata served up a delicious welcome dinner at Station #1, and Roger and Karen Curry opened their home for a home cooked meal and powerful conversations. Inyo/ Mono Veterans Services Officer Jessica Allmon gave a moving account of her own service in the US Army as the guest speaker at a delicious dinner provided by Ed Hurley and Burgers Restaurant, and the Good Life Café provided another special send off for our athletes.

left: Wounded Warrior Rose and DSES Board Member and Volunteer Penny Bordokas skiing at Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center; center: 84 year-old Korean War Veteran Roy and his wife Carole walk the Arch of Honor during Operation Mountain Freedom; right: DSES Staff Instructor Emily Estremo and mono skier Ronnie have some fun on the slopes during Operation Mountain Freedom.

This was such a great opportunity for me to get back to doing things that I once enjoyed and to spend some time with my son. All in all, this was the best week that I’ve had in a very long time, and I am very humbled. Thank you! – Brian, Sargent Major, Wounded Warrior Battalion, Camp Pendleton

Always a highlight of the week, Wounded Warriors, and their families passed through an Arch of Honor Thursday morning created by a record crowd that included members of a training squad from the Marines Mountain Warfare Training Center at Pickel Meadows. They were also celebrated as part of a luncheon featuring US Marine Corps General Kevin Killea and the presentation of a special award recognizing Frank Frievalt and the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department for their contributions to DSES’s Wounded Warrior programs. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra would like to thank all of our sponsors, volunteers, and distinguished guests who helped make the 11th Annual Operation Mountain Freedom a success, especially Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, The Westin Monache Resort, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority, Sue Ebersold, Roger and Karen Curry, Burgers Restaurant, Good Life Café, and Mammoth Lakes Fire Department. As a community, we are able to make a difference in the lives of our Wounded Warriors.

Volunteers and staff of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra cycle the Glass Mountains to grow scholarship fund

Ride organizer Maggie Palchak with her husband Jim Lewey

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Contact: DSES Office at 760.934.0791

Volunteers and staff of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra cycle the Glass Mountains to grow scholarship fund

Wounded Warrior Ryan Sykes hand cycling on the left, with support rider Ricky D

Mammoth Lakes, California – (July 27, 2016) This past weekend, 19 hardy souls braved the heat and wind to ride 165 miles and climb over 10,000 feet to raise money to support Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES)!  Riders of the Sierra Cycle Challenge raised over $70K to help build the DSES scholarship fund. Over 40% of our lessons receive some form of scholarship and we are proud to be able to say that we never turn away an athlete for reasons of financial need.  DSES brings the thrill and exhilaration of outdoors sports to athletes of any age and with any disability.  We serve children and adults, wounded warriors and civilians.  We offer lessons in alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding and biathlon in the winter; cycling, paddling, climbing, and more in the summer! 

Sierra Cycle Rider Jill Hodges, who is an amputee, poses at Silver Lake Resort, a sponsor

This year our Sierra Cycle Challenge riders included DSES staff members and volunteers, athletes with disabilities (including former DSES students) and a wounded warrior, veteran of the US Navy.  Fundraising riders were supported by an incredible crew of volunteers on bikes, in vehicles and on the ground, and five incredible massage

therapists, Michelle Mather, Sarah Asa, Kristin Shelburg, Melissa Soltero and Keisha Curtis, donated their amazing healing hands to rejuvenate the riders after they climbed from Chalfant to Lee Vining on Sunday.  


DSES gives a heartfelt thanks to all of the fundraisers and volunteers who helped to make this event such a great success.  We also want to thank our incredible sponsors including:  Footloose Sports, Mammoth Chevron, Ed Hurley & Berger’s Burgers, Doug & Debbie Lindfors, Brent Truax and the Sierra Nevada Resort, VONS, CLIF Bar, Mono Vista RV Park, Z Pizza and Giovanni’s.


Remember, it is not too late to support this amazing event and this amazing organization!  You can donate at www.crowdrise.com/SierraCycleChallenge2016.  For more information

about DSES you can visit our website at www.disabledsportseasternsierra.org






A total of 22 wounded warriors from throughout the nation (Wounded Warrior Battalion West at Camp Pendleton and Balboa Naval Medical Center, Florida, and Texas) gathered for the tenth annual Operation High Altitude, presented by Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra.  From June 6th through the 10th, participants with disabilities (including PTSD, TBI, below knee amputee, above knee amputee, and more) had life changing experiences through exposure to different therapeutic activities.

A total of 32 participants attended the camp, including 22 wounded warriors, two Camp Pendleton staff and eight guests of wounded warriors.  Korean War veteran Bing Bingham and his wife Jody returned again to share his experiences with the younger veterans.  Perfect weather, abundant fun, and therapeutic, empowering activities made the event a great experience for all.

After the group set up camp at McGee Creek Campground Monday afternoon, they were treated to a welcome dinner hosted by the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department.  This semi-annual tradition starts the week with a great round of introductions and fabulous hospitality. 

A highlight of the week was Tuesday morning at June Lake Beach, when General Ted Banta, USMC, spoke to the whole group, who was gathered in part for the Dick Noles Wounded Warrior Pathway ribbon cutting ceremony.  This brand new accessible mobi-mat pathway leads from the restrooms at June Lake Beach all the way into the water and even offers a 100-foot stretch along the beach for individuals with mobility issues to relax and enjoy the fabulous scenery.  This mat was the generous gift of four donors in honor of Dick Noles; Dave McCoy, Bob Schotz, John Frederickson and Randy Short. Dick Noles passed away in November and he was instrumental in developing accessible waterways in the Eastern Sierra.  The athletes enjoyed an absolutely perfect day of paddling and swimming on June Lake thanks to Rob Witherall and Mammoth Kayaks.

Wednesday morning local fishing guides came together to take the athletes fly fishing on Crowley Lake.  Many delicious fish were caught for dinner that night!  Huge thanks to all… Mark Spieler and his fishing guides who donated their time and expertise.  This was followed by an afternoon of cycling at Shady Rest Park compliments of Footloose Sports.

Thursday, with the help of Neil Satterfield and Howie Schwartz from Sierra Mountain Guides, everyone tried rock climbing by either making it up a variety of top roped ascents and/or on a highline Tyrolean traverse.  What a successful day!  Thursday night was our farewell Hootenanny catered by Breakfast Club host Sue Ebersold and help from her talented friends: Fred, Scottie B., Cowboy and Simone! Our entertainers were Cowboy Poet Larry Maurice and musician Derik Olson.

Friday morning was a day of farewells as the bus took many of our athletes back to Wounded Warrior Battalion West at Camp Pendleton.  The remaining veterans relaxed at the Whitmore pool and then bowled several games at Mammoth Rock N Bowl before flying home.

What a fabulous week!  Thank you so much to all of the wonderful people and businesses who made this incredible event possible:  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority, McGee Creek RV Park & Campground, Mammoth Kayaks, Sierra Mountain Guides, The Breakfast Club, Pita Pit, Eastside Bakery, Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, Silver Lake Resort, Mammoth Disposal Inc, Whitmore Pool & the Town Of Mammoth Lakes, Mammoth Rock ‘N Bowl, Crowley Lake Fish Camp, Crowley Lake General Store, Canine Companions for Independence, Footloose Sports, Eastern Sierra Fishing Guides Association, Randy Short, Bob Schotz, Dave McCoy, John Fredericksen, Larry Maurice, Derik Olson, Mammoth Mountaineering Supply and all of our DSES volunteers who are the backbone of the program!

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra receives $6,400 Grant from Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for Adaptive Sports Program

dses_logo_horiz.jpgFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 6, 2016

Contact: DSES Office at 760.934.0791

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra receives $6,400 Grant from Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for Adaptive Sports Program

Mammoth Lakes, California – (May 6, 2016) – Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) is proud to announce that we have received a $6,400 Quality of Life grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The award was one of 107 grants totaling over $735,482 awarded by the Reeve Foundation to nonprofit organizations nationwide that provide more opportunities, access, and daily quality of life for individuals living with paralysis, their families, and caregivers. Conceived by the late Dana Reeve, the program has awarded over 2,600 grants totaling over $19 million since 1999. 

This Quality of Life grant has been awarded to DSES to support increased accessibility for our summer sport program participants. DSES will use this money to purchase an accessible paddle board.  While most people are familiar with stand up paddle boards, they may not know that there is an opportunity for sitting athletes to enjoy this sport as well.  This board will be accessible to athletes using wheelchairs in their daily life.  The grant will also allow us to purchase adjustable seating for paddle sports which will make all paddle sports more accessible to athletes with mobility issues.

DSES is extremely honored to have received this grant from the Reeve Foundation. It is a huge achievement to be recognized by the Foundation and it will be a monumental bonus for our summer program, enabling even more athletes the ability to independently and safely recreate on the water! The equipment we purchase will be used at summer camps like Pedal~Paddle and the Wounded Warrior Operation High Altitude. We are extremely appreciative of the Reeve Foundation for their generosity and support of our program.

“The Reeve Foundation is committed to supporting programs and resources that foster independent living, improved health and community engagement,” said Donna Valente, Director, Quality of Life Grants, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “The recognized grantees are instrumental to our work at the Reeve Foundation as we strive to serve the disability community with a roadmap of resources and programs to enhance their quality of life.”

Awarded twice yearly, grant requests were evaluated and scored based on a rigorous review process to determine funding for organizations that improve daily life for those living with paralysis, as well as their families and caregivers. This cycle, the Reeve Foundation strategically focused on projects that address the needs of people with paralysis living in underserved areas, designated as groups or county or civil divisions in which residents have a shortage of personal health services or face economic, cultural or linguistic barriers to healthcare.

Reeve Grant diamond-web - Copy - CopyThe Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grants Program was created to address the myriad needs of children and adults living with paralysis, as well as provide assistance and education to their families and caregivers. Funded programs serve individuals living with paralysis caused by injuries, diseases or birth conditions, including but not limited to, stroke, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The grants support innovative initiatives that aim to increase quality of life by improving physical and emotional health, broadening community engagement, and increasing independence. Quality of Life grants are funded through a cooperative agreement with the Administration for Community Living (cooperative agreement number 90PR3001-01-00).

About the Reeve Foundation

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. We meet all 20 of the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charity accountability and hold the BBB’s Charity Seal. The Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) is a program of the Reeve Foundation, and is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (cooperative agreement number 90PR3001-01-00). For more information, please visit our website at www.ChristopherReeve.org or call 800-539-7309.

About Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra

We believe the freedom and exhilaration of outdoor challenges changes lives. No one should be left behind simply because of a disability! For more information contact our office at 760.934.0791 or visit www.disabledsportsasternsierra.org

# # #


Maggie Palchak

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra


Rita Gentles

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

(973) 379-2690 ext. 7123


Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and Mammoth Mountain Host OPERATION MOUNTAIN FREEDOM

We are family: Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and Mammoth Mountain Host OPERATION MOUNTAIN FREEDOM

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra’s 10th annual Operation Mountain Freedom winter camp for Wounded Warriors was a tremendous success. Athletes came from nearby Camp Pendleton and Balboa Naval Medical Hospital, Wounded Warrior Battalion West, as well as from all over the country. We brought 26 Wounded Warriors from all of the armed services (Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard), their families and military staff to Mammoth Mountain February 1-5. A total of 47 participants and over 50 volunteers were brought together for this amazing week of winter sports and fun.

Warriors from various theaters of war were in attendance, including several from Vietnam and Korea, as well as more recent conflicts. The mix of veteran and active duty athletes allowed for some great opportunities to share stories and camaraderie.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area again served as the event’s chief sponsor, providing the Mountainside Conference Center as base of operations, lunches and all ski/snowboard gear, as well as lift/trail passes for all the warriors and guests. Local sponsors this year included Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, the Curry family and friends, Burgers Restaurant, Westin Monache Resort, Good Life Café, Sue Ebersold, and Eastern Sierra Transit Authority.

WW_WrapUp_Report  WW_WrapUp1

The group was warmly welcomed on Monday with check in at the Westin Monache Resort, which generously provided all their lodging for the week, and the annual barbecue welcome dinner at Mammoth Lakes Fire Station #1, where Capt. Frank Frievalt and crew made the warriors feel right at home. On Tuesday, the warriors and company met up with their DSES Volunteer Instructors at MMSA’s Main Lodge, and then took to the slopes for a full day of on-snow instruction, from DSES’s awesome volunteer instructors, followed by dinner at the home of Roger and Karen Curry.

Wednesday started with Nordic skiing and snowshoeing at Tamarack Lodge, then more on-snow instruction back at MMSA’s Main Lodge. Ed Hurley and Burgers Restaurant played host to the warriors for dinner, another longstanding OMF custom. Burgers also welcomed our partners from Canine Companions for Independence for a presentation on all that these amazing service animals can do for an athlete with special needs.

WW1  WW2

Thursday morning was highlighted by the Arch of Honor and then a return to alpine skiing and snowboarding. Thursday’s special luncheon was spectacular with the room decorated in red, white and blue by DSES Volunteer Amy Ambellan and her team. The Marine Corp color guard, courtesy of the Marine Warfare Training Center at nearby Pickel Meadows, started off lunch on a solidly patriotic note.

Rusty Gregory was presented with a plaque by DSES board president Andy Colosardo and ED Kathy Copeland. Col. Willy Buhl was the keynote speaker and his words were poignant and heartfelt.

Thursday afternoon brought all the participants to Woolly’s Adventure Park for an incredible afternoon of tubing fun! Thursday night’s farewell dinner at the Good Life Café provided more emotional moments, with several warriors, who say they never speak up much, saying their thanks for what Operation Mountain Freedom brought to their lives. We also want to say a special thanks to the Veterans Affairs and the Patriot’s Initiative for their support and grant funding.

Wounded Warrior Victor said Thursday afternoon “this was the best day of my life!”

WW Nicole said “thank you for this opportunity to make me feel a little more normal.”

WW Mauricio’s favorite memory was “being able to overcome challenges with my son by my side.”

WW Donnie said he was “Boarding like I’ve never boarded before. You guys gave us a lot of confidence… It was the greatest experience of my life!”

WW Logan said “my wife is amazed in what y’all have done for me.It’s my goal in life to give my wife and kids this experience, I want to bring them next year.”

The next DSES Wounded Warriors camp is the Operation High Altitude summer camp, June 6-10. For more information, call 760.934.0791 and log on to www.disabledsportseasternsierra.org. For more information on the National Wounded Warrior Center, log on to www.woundedwarriorsmammoth.org.

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra awarded grant from THE PATRIOTS INITIATIVE

TPI Accreditation Decal -- Rectangle (White)

December 19, 2015

Contact: DSES Office at 760.934.0791

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra awarded grant from THE PATRIOTS INITIATIVE

Matching Funds Grant awarded to support DSES Military Veterans Sports/Reintegration

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. – DSES is extremely pleased to announce that we have been awarded $15,000 from THE PATRIOTS INITIATIVE.  THE PATRIOTS INITIATIVE evaluates and selects organizations that are leaders in their field and has recognized DSES for our Military Veterans Sports/Reintegration and our Paralympic Sport Program.  THE PATRIOTS INITIATIVE recognizes only the best of the best in providing veterans services and we are proud to have made their list.

DSES is extremely proud to be recognized for our work and will commit the award to returning veterans who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and mentorship to younger and/or recently injured veterans.  Our goal is to cultivate a culture of mentorship and sharing successes with veterans who are newly learning to focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities.

This grant has been set up as a “matching” gift opportunity for donors who support TPI and DSES from now until December 31st, 2015.  We hope that this gives incentive and awareness to donors for this specific program. 

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra is a volunteer-based nonprofit dedicated to changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families by offering year-round outdoor sports and activities, creating inspiring challenges, providing expert instruction and adaptive equipment rallying the community to comfortably accommodate people with disabilities.  DSES has adaptive equipment to fulfill everyone’s winter and summer dreams: gliding down a snow-covered mountainside, cruising on a cycle or skimming over a placid lake.  Activities are customized to each individual; one-on-one or in a group.  Our goal is for everyone to be active year round! DSES makes the outdoors accessible and affordable!!

For more information on Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and supporting military veteran sports and reintegration, contact our office at 760.934.0791 or visit www.disabledsportseasternsierra.org.  For information on THE PATRIOTS INITIATIVE and their program to support 21st Century Military Service Members and their families, call 858.756.7875 or visit www.thepatriotsinitiative.org.

Fireside Chat with Laurel Martin M.B.A.

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra
Summer Program & Guest Services Manager

Laurel with Diploma (1)When did you start working with Disabled Sports in Mammoth Lakes, CA?

I moved to Mammoth Lakes in the summer of 2006 and began volunteering with Mammoth Dog Teams.  I was first introduced to Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) in Mammoth Lakes, CA when they brought a few students down for some therapy time with the dogs.  In the beginning of October 2006, I was hired as a seasonal Administrative Assistant. That was DSES’s 4th season and there were only 4 staff members.  However, the organization was growing rapidly and I quickly became a year-round employee.  

What does your work at DSES involve?

Over the years, I have had many titles and worn many hats in the organization.  I tend to describe my current job as running the summer program, overseeing the office and guest services, and handling the back office.  For example, working with the database, financials, insurance, etc. as well as establishing partnerships and grants management.  So much of what I do is the nuts and bolts of running the business end of things.  But I love getting to work with the athletes and volunteers as much as I can!

What do you find the most rewarding about your work at DSES?

One of the things I look for in a job is finding meaningful work.  No question, what we do here is meaningful.  But hands down the best part of working at DSES is the people.  The amazing athletes, family members, volunteers, donors, and, of course the DSES team, make even the toughest day better.  I have met so many wonderful people over the last nine years that have touched me deeply.  We change lives here, mine included.

What does a typical day in the middle of ski season look like for you at DSES?

It is hard to pin down a ‘typical’ day at DSES, winter or summer!  But in the winter, the days are certainly full.  With lessons twice a day, clinics for volunteers, possible grant applications or reporting deadlines, booking and confirming reservations for lessons, donor cultivation, event planning, and more, there is guaranteed to be a long to-do list!  In the winter, we get to see the bulk of our volunteers and students, many of whom I have gotten to know well over the years.  So there is a great energy and enthusiasm that makes the day pass quickly!

What was your motivation for getting your MBA?

I have often been asked why I would get an MBA when I work for a nonprofit.  The skills and business practices that are taught at business school can help ANY business reach their goals, including mission driven nonprofits.  Having been a part of the rapid growth at DSES over the past decade, I want to be able to sustainably continue this growth. During my courses, I was able to adapt the lessons to our organization and even complete projects using DSES as a subject. For example, financial management principles help me to better understand grant requirements and reporting, operational management can help streamline our processes, and strategic management can guide us into the future on a clear path.

Were you worried about being able to balance work at DSES and school?

At times; this was one of the most difficult challenges I have faced (so far).  When I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and found a great online program at nearby University of Nevada-Reno, I knew it wouldn’t be simple. This highly ranked business school was sure to provide a top notch education and rigorous curriculum. Their Executive MBA program is specifically designed to be pursued while continuing to work full time (although that does not mean it is easy!) and provides a solid foundation in finance and management.

Fortunately, over the course of nine years working at DSES, I have also developed some juggling skills! With support from the wonderful DSES team, I was able to find a balance between school and work and even achieved straight A’s! The sacrifices, the time and energy it took to balance everything, was all worth it to earn that MBA.

What plans do you have for the future?

Although these last two years have been difficult, the skills and knowledge I have gained are extremely valuable. They not only help me to be a better leader and manager, but they can help guide us into the next chapter as an organization. With MBA in hand, I am eager to explore the challenges and opportunities ahead including working with our amazing volunteers to continue providing life changing experiences for all of our athletes. My motto truly has become, “If I can do this, I can do anything!”

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra is a volunteer-based nonprofit dedicated to changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families by offering year-round outdoor sports and activities, creating inspiring challenges, providing expert instruction and adaptive equipment rallying the community to comfortably accommodate people with disabilities. DSES has adaptive equipment to fulfill everyone’s winter and summer dreams: gliding down a snow-covered mountainside, cruising on a cycle or skimming over a placid lake. Activities are customized to each individual; one-on-one or in a group. Our goal is for everyone to be active year round! DSES makes the outdoors accessible and affordable!!

To learn more or make a donation please visit:

If you would like to be a guest blogger for DSES please contact:

Suzanne Baracchini
Communications Director
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra Announces New Board Members




[New DSES Board members Dr. Stacey Adler and Penny Bordokas pictured here with

Shields Richardson (DSES Board Development Chair)

& Kathy Copeland (DSES, Executive Director)]

Mammoth Lakes, CA: Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) has added two highly committed and experienced community leaders to its dedicated board of directors. “We are thrilled to welcome Penny Bordokas and Stacey Adler, their commitment to community, education and those with special needs will be a great asset to our organization” says Kathy Copeland, DSES Executive Director.

penny headshot

Penny Bordokas manages the finance and accounting activities at JMG Capital, LLC and Pacific Assets Management, LLC. Previously, she was a Performance Analyst for various money managers, Operations Manager at Dean Witter Reynolds and  an Intermarket Trading Coordinator at the Pacific Stock Exchange from 1987 to 1988. Penny and her husband George raised two children in Manhattan Beach, who are now in college.  Their son was on the Mammoth snowboard team throughout his teen years and this was how they discovered Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra. Penny’s passions have always been education and community. She served as an elected school board trustee along with many years of involvement with Manhattan Beach Education Foundation including chairing the Manhattan Beach Wine Auction.  As a Sandpiper, a South Bay philanthropic organization, Penny has involved herself in many community projects helping the underserved by sitting on the executive, scholarship and endowment boards.  She currently leads the Mayor’s Youth Council  program in Manhattan Beach.  Currently splitting her time between Manhattan Beach and Mammoth Lakes, Penny is excited to be a part of DSES and plans to eventually retire in Mammoth. Penny is excited to bring her skill set to the DSES board of directors.


Dr. Stacey Adler, Mono County Superintendent of Schools, moved to Mammoth Lakes from San Diego in 2002 to become the principal of Mammoth Elementary School. An educator for over twenty years, Stacey had taught in all grade levels, including university. During graduate school in Illinois, Stacey was involved with the North Shore Special Recreation Association, working to build recreational and social skills in teenagers and young adults with special needs. This work sparked her passion for working with the special needs population. Stacey is an ex-officio Board member for the Mammoth Lakes Foundation and a member of Lions’ Club. She is an avid runner and hiker. Stacey enjoys spending time with her husband, Joe, and their three children.


Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra is a volunteer-based nonprofit dedicated to changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families by offering year-round outdoor sports and activities, creating inspiring challenges, providing expert instruction and adaptive equipment rallying the community to comfortably accommodate people with disabilities. DSES has adaptive equipment to fulfill everyone’s winter and summer dreams: gliding down a snow-covered mountainside, cruising on a cycle or skimming over a placid lake. Activities are customized to each individual; one-on-one or in a group. Our goal is for everyone to be active year round! DSES makes the outdoors accessible and affordable!!

To learn more or make a donation please visit:


For more information please contact:

Suzanne Baracchini Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra



Adaptive Outdoor Adventure Mammoth Summer Trip by Becky Bershtel

12034453_909799355723956_567157515663124268_oWe had an incredible, amazingly successful time on our Adaptive Outdoor Adventure Mammoth and Yosemite summer trip (Sept. 15 – 20)! We had 10 participants who are past Rancho patients (and Wellness Center members), with disabilities including spinal cord injury, polio, cerebral palsy, stroke, and brain injury, the majority of whom had never been on an overnight trip with Rancho AOA. We participated in three days of activities with Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) in Mammoth including adaptive cycling, adaptive rock climbing, kayaking and adaptive paddleboarding, and a gondola ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain (11,000 feet!). On our last full day of the trip we stopped at the Mammoth visitor center where all 10 participants received lifetime access passes for free entry into any national park. Then we drove into Yosemite National Park where we had a picnic lunch on the valley floor and explored the Yosemite Visitor center and museum, then drove up to Glacier Point for an adaptive trail challenge and breathtaking views!Many thanks to Tiffany Yonemoto (RT) and Dave van Beek (new Rancho volunteer and a GREAT help on the trip!), we all worked together as a team to make this the best experience possible for the participants. Also thanks to Deb Arroyo and the Rancho Foundation, we had funding for the trip without which this trip would not have been possible!

Quotes from participants:

“My favoite memory was Yosemite (brought back memories!) and biking and all the activities. My goals coming into the trip were to meet new people and my goals were met. Now I want to go back for more! On this trip I learned that patience is a good thing and that I’m much more athletic than I thought!”

“My favorite memories were hand cycling, rock climbing, kayaking, and the fellowship. My goal was to participate in all the activities to the best of my ability, and 100% my goals were met. On this trip I learned that when you see someone make the challenge before you it gives you the confidence to go for it 100%. And how much the helpers really care, and how you have their full support.”

“I will always remember cycling because it was my first time cycling upright again [pedaling with feet] since my stroke. My goals for the trip were to meet new people and to participate in every event, and my goals were met. On this trip I learned to keep faith, believe in myself and go for it.”

“The bike [hand cycle] just blew my mind. I never thought I would be riding a bike again. The rock climbing was awesome, I completed the challenge. So many times I wanted to quit but I got to the top! The paddleboarding was another favorite activity, being in the middle of the lake and being independent was awesome. My goals coming into the trip were to do all the sports and activities and to challenge myself and push myself more. I feel that my goals were met. I couldn’t and now I can.”

“My favorite memories from the trip were cycling, kayaking, rock climbing and exploring Yosemite. My goals coming into the trip were to rock climb – it was hard but I did it!; and to try everything and I did it! and will keep doing it! On this trip I got to know everyone, I learned that the activities are exciting and that I can do it!”

“My favorite memory was hand cycling. My goals coming into the trip were to experience new things and push myself, and definitely my goals were met. On this trip I learned how to adapt to new situations.”

“My favorite memories were the views from cycling and riding on the high line. My goals coming into the trip were to test my balance and skills in dirt and to see what it would take to get through a 5 day trip. My goals were met. On this trip I learned it’s a lot easier to travel than I thought and I got a lot of information for when I come back.”

“From the activities my favorite was rock climbing. But overall I really enjoyed all the people in the group and I got to know a lot about them. My goals coming into the trip were to be able to independently take care of all my daily needs and I feel like I did a pretty good job with the equipment I had. On this trip I learned that any outdoor activity can be adapted, and people are always willing to help. And I went a week without wheelie bars!”

“My favorite memory was the day we spent at the lake kayaking. My goals coming into the trip were to try new environments and see if my body could conquer the challenges that these environments gave met, and I feel that my goals were met. On this trip I learned to trust other people.”

“Rock climbing was the highlight of my experience. On this trip I learned tolerance for others and patients, and I really liked meeting new people. Everything about this trip was just great.”

Written by: Rebecca (Becky) Bershtel, CTRS, RTC
Recreation Therapist II
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
7601 East Imperial Highway | JPI Bldg Room T2180 | Downey, CA 90242
O: (562) 401-6335 | F: (562) 401-6169
E: rbershtel@dhs.lacounty.gov