OPERATION HIGH ALTITUDE 2016

DISABLED SPORTS EASTERN SIERRA

WOUNDED WARRIOR OPERATION HIGH ALTITUDE SPORTS CAMP

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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:
http://disabledsportseasternsierra.org/

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

Suzanne Baracchini
Communications Director
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra
858.395.7344
suzanne@disabledsportseasternsierra.org

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

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Golfers come out swinging in Mammoth Lakes, CA for 2 Local Non-Profits

Mammoth Lakes Golf Classic 2015  

Sierra Star Golf Course, Mammoth Lakes, CA


Thanks to the generosity of players, sponsors, and donors, the 16th annual Golf Classic on Sept. 13 was a hole-in-one for higher education, the arts, and Wounded Warriors. The Mammoth Lakes Foundation teamed up with Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra this year, and proceeds from the event will support scholarships, theatre programming, and DSES’s
National Wounded Warrior Center program.

The field of 120 players at the event, sponsored by Dave & Roma McCoy, enjoyed 18 holes of golf, great food sponsored by Abby and Jack Smith (breakfast) and Industrial Metal Supply/Neil Sherman (lunch), delicious beverages sponsored by American Landscape & Maintenance Inc., a silent auction, and the opportunity to win many prizes.

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Working with the two nonprofits, Dave Schacht of Sierra Star Golf Course coordinated all the course activity, including a “Beat the Pro” contest on Hole 2 and the Putting Contest.

Taylor Eastman won the Putting Contest with a 40’ putt landing 2’3” away from the hole. The putting contest was sponsored by MLF Chairman of the Board Gary Myers and his wife, Karilyn. Eastman won a $500 gift certificate to Sierra Star Golf Course.

John Eastman won the Grand Raffle Prize—four VIP passes to the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, June 1-5, 2016. It was a big day for the Eastman Family.

Guy Bayless took home a 6-liter bottle of 1984 Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon as the Superticket winner, donated by Evan and Kathie Russell. Supertickets were limited to golfers only with a limit of one per player.

The winning low score team for the third year in a row included Ian Birrell, Guy Bien, Christian Newman, and Craig Copeland;  the “Blind Bogey” winning team consisted of John Eastman, Taylor Eastman, William Bauman, and Brandon Toups; and the dubious honors for high score team was won by Kathy Copeland, Jack Copeland, Brent Truax, and Rich Boccia.

There were also “Closest to the Pin” contests on all four Par 3s that were won by Tom Johnson on Hole 2 (who got a hole-in-one!); Tani Tatum on Hole 7; Jack Lunch on Hole 14; and Doug Ross on Hole 18.   

The list of supporters was impressive, attested to by the number of Hole and Tee Sponsor signs planted throughout the 18-hole course.

Hole Sponsors included Al and Tracy Dykstra, Barbie and Gary McCoy, Jack Lunch/The Sheet, Ormat, Judy and Michael Bornfeld, Charles Comfort, Suzanne and Bob Moon, KMMT/KRHV, and Eastman Homeowners.

Tee Sponsors included Cox Construction Co., Freeman Roofing, George Jenkins Painting, Cherne, Harrell & Parisky Medical Imaging, High Sierra Energy Foundation, Jerry Mokler, John Bush, Judy & Richard Markham, Mammoth Lakes Lions Club, Mammoth Lakes Sunrise Rotary, Mammoth Reservation Bureau, Napa of Mammoth, Neubauer-Jennison, Inc., Pam & Scott Taylor + Family, Sierra Paint & Dry Wall, Sierra Wave Media, Suzi Jackson & Blaine Braniff, Thai’d Up, Black Golf Asphalt, and Tim’s Snow Removal.

In Kind Sponsors included Andrea Revy O’Connell/Mammoth Rock ‘n’ Bowl, Ashley Brussel/Pedego, Brian Balarsky & Dave Morrison/Convict Lake Resort, Carey Sigmen/The Mogul, Casey Lum, David Scheidt/Mastro Scheidt Winery, Chris Leonard/Kittredge Sports, Dennis Pope, Ed Hurley/Burgers Restaurant, Emma Martin/Wilson Creek Wines, Evan Russell, George Wever, Joannie Shaller/Roberto’s Café, John Morris/Snowcreek Resort, Julia & Joe Contaldi/Performance Anglers, Juliana Olinka, Julie D’Orio, Mike Coco/Thai’d Up, Kent Rianda/ The Trout Fly, Peachy Canyon Winery, Peggy Hankins, Ruth & Roger MacFarlane, Shelby Mueller/Austria Hof, Shira Dubrovner/Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, Dave Schacht/Sierra Star Golf Course, Steve Shibley/Bishop Country Club, Thomas Fallon/Seaglass Fine Art Photography, and Wayne Smith.

Proceeds from the Golf Classic went toward supporting student scholarships, increasing cultural programming for the community and DSES’s National Wounded Warrior Center program.

More photos can be found on MLF Facebook – 16th Annual Golf Classic Photo Album

[Image Credit: Bonnie Colgan]

Jerry Mokler Interview - Google Docs

A Conversation with Jerry Mokler a long time supporter of Disabled Sports and Wounded Warriors.

Recently I had an opportunity to sit and chat with Jerry Mokler, who had just celebrated her 90th birthday. A long time Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) and wounded warrior supporter, Jerry is the founder of the Lloyd Mokler Family Foundation. Pictured here skydiving in Hawaii, when asked if she was scared to jump out of the plane, she answered “Oh No!….I was a ski racer….that was much, much scarier!

 

pic21: How did you spend your 90th birthday?

There were lots of parties with friends and family, I had a private dinner with my friends in Carlsbad at La Costa Glen where I live.

2: What gave you the idea for setting up the Lloyd Mokler Family Foundation?

One day I was on a Camp Pendleton tour bus and we drove by Wounded Warrior Battalion West. We couldn’t go inside as a General was about to visit but later we were able to have a tour with my friend Steve Colwell, a Vietnam Veteran. It stuck me right there and then, I had to do something for our wounded warriors. My husband and son were both wounded warriors and my grandson is a Captain in the US Marines. He has served in Afghanistan but fortunately not wounded. I immediately called Kathy Copeland, Executive Director, DSES in Mammoth Lakes, CA and said “I just have to do something but I don’t know what?” Kathy proceeded to tell me about a new DSES Program that was just getting under way, The National Wounded Warrior Center (NWWC) that would be built adjacent to the Cerro Coso College Campus. My husband, Lloyd, helped fund the building of the College and this was near and dear to his heart.

I asked Kathy if I could start a Foundation in my husbands name, a foundation whose mission would be to help build the NWWC, where wounded warriors and their families can stay while participating in sports and education programs that will enable them to successfully return to civilian life. Kathy said “Yes!” and the Lloyd Mokler Family Foundation was born.

3: Can you tell us about your 90th Birthday Fundraising Campaign?

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I was amazed at the response to my birthday campaign where I asked my friends and family to donate $90. We raised over $10,000 and the money is still coming in. Children that played in my yard when I lived in Mammoth Lakes, who are now adults, came out of the woodwork and donated toward my 90th birthday campaign. The biggest thing to come out of this was not only the wonderful donations that will go straight to help support the National Wounded Warrior Center but the awareness it raised amongst my friends.

4: What advice would you give to others who want to show their support for NWWC?

 People just need to get involved in some way, not everyone can be involved in the same way, they have to find what resonates with them. It is such an important cause. More and more people are recognizing how much our wounded warriors have done for our country and how much they need our help to transition back into civilian life. They are recognizing Vietnam Veterans now, which they never did. I brought my son, a Vietnam veteran and a wounded warrior, up to Mammoth last year and he was very moved and impressed about what was being done for the Vietnam Vets at DSES. My son got to experience the “Arch of Honor” something that really moved him and he will never forget.

[DSES Arch of Honor 2014, Mammoth Mountain, CA]

[DSES Arch of Honor 2014, Mammoth Mountain, CA]

I think it is a beautiful thing that wounded warriors from all wars are being honored at DSES through their programs. I love and admire Kathy Copeland “Crazy Kathy” for all she has done for our wounded warriors and the vision she has for the National Wounded Warrior Center.

8: Tell me something about yourself that most people might not know?

I was a professional clown, I am not sure where that came from. I love to experience many different things in life and have a lot of interests. When I lived in Mammoth Lakes I  ran Classes for children and adults to learn how to become clowns.

It was an honor and a pleasure to sit and chat with Jerry Mokler in the Lobby of the Mammoth Mountain Inn and listen to her stories. I could feel her passion for our the National Wounded Warrior Center a program of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra.

Thank you Jerry!

[Jerry Mokler with Suzanne Baracchini, DSES Communications Director, fireside chat Mammoth Mountain Inn]

[Jerry Mokler with Suzanne Baracchini, DSES Communications Director, fireside chat at Mammoth Mountain Inn]

© Written by Suzanne Baracchini
DSES Communications Director
suzanne@disabledsportseasternsierra.org

Cyclists Ride 3 Day Fundraising Journey for Athletes with Disabilities by Ryan Sykes

The Sierra Cycle Challenge is a fully supported 3 day bike ride benefiting Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) and covers nearly 150 miles of California’s Eastern Sierra. The riding route is a fully paved surface which winds through the mountains and high deserts to the east of Yosemite. It begins in the town of Mammoth Lakes, in the Footloose Sports parking lot, and eventually circles back around to complete the journey at the same location. Cyclists included athletes with disabilities using adaptive equipment and all involved were passionate fundraisers supporting DSES.

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The evening before the Challenge commenced, all of the riders and support personnel gathered together at the house of Maggie Palchak for a carbo load dinner. Each rider was also given a “Swag Bag” containing a DSES riding jersey, DSES riding socks, and a handful of other miscellaneous items that were generously donated.

DAY ONE

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We gathered up in the parking lot of Footloose on the morning of July 25th. Many of the riders I recognized from the previous year. Everyone got together for a group picture before we headed out. I don’t think that I will ever forget the Mammoth Chief of Police, Al Davis, wearing his badge and utility belt with his gun in his riding gear. Haha, it was going to be a great day! With a Police escort out of city limits, the 2015 Sierra Cycle Challenge began! Although, the beautiful scenery sure takes your mind away from the 55 miles of spinning. We peddled past the Whitmore Hot Springs and cruised into the small town of Benton for a perfectly placed rest stop. Now it was a short push down Highway 6 to our first campsite. I personally love this spot! It’s actually not a campsite, but someones back yard. It’s a very relaxing location.

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It’s an ideal spot to recuperate after a long day of riding. Dinner arrived just as we put the finishing touches on our campsites and showered up for the evening. After dinner a few people gathered up in the campsite to reflect on the day.

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Bats were out in full force due to insect larvae hatching from the nearby water ski lake, which also gave us something to talk about. By 9 pm, everyone had turned in for the night. Soon enough, the sun crept back over the mountain tops and Day Two was about to begin.

DAY TWO

Today we were riding to the town of Lee Vining. The route was well planned and each moderate incline had a matching decline. Just like your momma always said, “What goes up, must come down”. There was also a nice little stretch through the valley that didn’t want to end. No, it just seemed longer than it actually was. Plus it afforded you the opportunity to theorize the true true meaning of life…

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Shortly after sailing through the mellow flatlands, we climbed back into the gorgeous mountain range. What a welcomed sight that was! The mountain floor desert is neat, but the ever changing landscape that the rise in elevation brings, quickly brings a smile to my face and almost makes me feel like I’m riding through the pages of a Hallmark Calendar. We soon made our way to the Lee Vining RV Campsite and set up for the night. After a quick rinse off, massage therapists worked their healing magic on any aches and/or pain that we had gathered thus far. A wonderful Surf n’ Turf dinner was BBQ’ed up for us by the Mammoth Rotary Club. Another great ending to a great day.

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DAY THREE

Now we were on the home stretch. Although the home stretch was laden with hills. The DSES SaG (Support and Gear) vehicle brought up the rear to help any rider make it through the tough spots.

DSCN0098Seriously though, we are riding on roads that seem to be almost out of place because of how majestic the surroundings were. So really, how hard can it be?! Do you know how many people would kill for this experience?! At least these were a few of the things that cycled through my head as I climbed the hills. Then came the big downhill. It was like a scene of Endor in Star Wars! I kept waiting for little Ewok’s to come jumping out of the overhanging trees. It was such a cool spot! We soon gathered back up at a large intersection and made our final descent back into town.

Meet up

As I coasted into the Footloose Sports parking lot, I was already constructing my training regiment for next year. Only 362 more days to go!

Click Here to learn more about the Sierra Cycle Challenge.

Click Here to receive furture DSES Updates.

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DSES Wounded Warriors on Cloud Nine!

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and its annual Wounded Warriors Summer Camp, Operation High Altitude, found themselves on Cloud Nine the week of June 1-5. The camp celebrated its ninth year with great weather, lots of fun and adventures, and therapeutic, life-empowering activities for all.

DSES was host to 30 participants, including 20 Warriors, as well as 10 staff and families, including Korean War veteran Roy and his wife, Carole, and a reunion of four veterans who hadn’t seen each other since they served together in Vietnam. One Warrior and his wife came from as far away as the Philippines.

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Ryan and service dog Docker settle in at McGee Creek Campground for a week of Operation High Altitude!

After the group settled in at the McGee Creek RV Park and Campground on Monday afternoon, they were treated to a welcome dinner, hosted by the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department. This semi-annual tradition helps break the ice and puts the Wounded Warriors at ease while they settle in for the week.

Members of the community all came together to provide incredible food, sports equipment and guiding services to ensure a fabulous week of sport activities for our military athletes.

The group spent Tuesday morning on Convict Lake kayaking with Mammoth Kayaks, and paddling, including use of DSES’s OnIt Ability wheelchair-accessible Standup Paddleboard.

The water was glassy, the weather was tranquil and warm, and a bald eagle was spotted observing the adventures from overhead! Everyone from ages 4 to 80+ got out on the water! What’s not to like?! Tuesday afternoon, the group took part in fly-fishing lessons, with coaching from several local professional fishing guides. At the crack of dawn Wednesday, the Warriors headed out on the waters of Crowley Lake and out at the Arcularius Ranch to put their fly-fishing lessons to use. Many fish were caught and fish stories abounded, including one from Roy, who pulled in four of the fish destined for Wednesday’s evening’s fish fry.

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Sklar (left) and wife Pauline were a Tandem Team on DSES’s new side-by-side Tandem Bike!

After wrapping up their morning on the water, the group relocated to Mammoth’s Shady Rest Park for an afternoon of cycling. Several athletes rode mountain bikes, while others went out on some of DSES’s fleet of adaptive cycles, including one of our newest acquisitions: a side-by-side tandem bike! Dirt trails and paved bike paths were explored for several hours before the exhausted athletes returned to camp for some R&R and campfire chats.

On Thursday, the campers headed north for a day of rock climbing overlooking scenic June Lake. Everyone was able to experience the challenges of rock climbing. Opportunities ranged from top rope pitches with varying degrees of difficulty to a modified Tyrolean traverse, which could be done solo or with assistance.

Later that night, the annual Hootenanny party was a huge success, even with a little bit of rain. Singalongs and storytelling and songs, from cowboy poet Larry Maurice and Bishop musician Derik Olson, kept spirits high and dry.

Phil Torie with Department of Veterans Affairs in Monterey brought two veterans to this year’s camp. “As a VA staff clinician, to have my vets invited to participate in DSES’s adaptive sports therapies really brought out the best from a couple of my guys who have been sitting out life,” Torie commented. “They moved from survival mode to thriving. They’ll be part of DSES’s extended family, and go seek out other big-hearted organizations, camps, events and fundraisers to give back.” Vets, Torie added, are typically reluctant to receive, but when they do, they want to give back. “I’m hooked,” Navy veteran Ron said about DSES’s Wounded Warrior programs. “I’m moving on into the world now. I’m mentoring other vets who are sitting on the sidelines wondering what they’re going to do with their lives.”

Navy veteran Queenie said she liked the social camaraderie and being with other like-minded Wounded Warriors, adding the camp reduced her anxiety. Gileen, another Navy veteran, said likened the camp’s supportive atmosphere to “the kind that makes up a family.” She said more confidence was her big takeaway from the week, especially climbing. “I couldn’t believe I rock climbed, but I did it,” she gushed. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without programs like this.” Like Ron, Gileen is “paying it forward,” volunteering her time helping other vets at the VA, which “never gave up” on her.

One Wounded Warrior commented the camp was the best time they’d had in 20 years, and everyone raved about the quality (and quantity!) of the food. Returning Warrior David didn’t want the camp to end Friday morning. “You know, my parents divorced when I was quite young. And when I went to my dad’s and it was time to leave, I’d get this incredibly sad feeling. I’m having that same sad feeling now.” Still, many campers left with new bonds to some of their fellow warriors. In addition to healing, one of our goals is to see them make friendships that will last after the camp. DSES’s Wounded Warrior winter camp, Operation Mountain Freedom, is set for February 1-5, 2016.

Wounded Warriors Group Shot Shady Rest Park

A Wounded Warriors/Volunteers/Staff “group selfie,” if there is such a thing, at Shady Rest Park!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all of the wonderful people and businesses who made this event fabulous!

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority, Bishop VFW Post 8988, McGee Creek RV Park & Campground, Mammoth Kayaks, Breakfast Club – Sue Ebersold, Pita Pit – Doug Hannah, Mammoth Kayaks, Mammoth Disposal, Inc., Eastside Bakery, Mammoth Lakes Fire Department – Chief Frank Frievalt and his crew, Arcularius Ranch and the Gottwald family – Scott, Lee, Gina, Fred & Karen, Convict Lake Resort, Silver Lake Resort, Whitmore Pool, Town of Mammoth Lakes, Mammoth Rock ‘N Bowl, Crowley Lake Fish Camp, Crowley Lake General Store, Canine Companions for Independence, Eastern Sierra Fishing Guides Association, Sierra Mountain Guides, Larry Maurice, Derik Olson, Angel’s Restaurant, Footloose Sports, Mammoth Mountaineering Supply, Sue Morning and Katie Morning-Hylen, Neubauer-Jennison, Inc., and all of our DSES volunteers who are the backbone of the program!

This program was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Photos: Sue Morning and Katie Morning-Hylen

National Wounded Warrior Center represented at USO Annual Gala 2015, San Diego, CA

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Suzanne Baracchini (DSES Communications Director), Jerry Buckley (Capital Campaign Consultant), June and Neil Ash, and Betty Walker at USO Annual Gala, 2015, San Diego, CA [Photo courtesy of Vincent Andrunas]

USO San Diego – 74th Anniversary Stars and Stripes Gala,
Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego, CA

Recently, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra had the opportunity to meet a number of community leaders in San Diego who are active with the local USO (United Service Organizations) program.  Suzanne Baracchini, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) director of communications and Jerry Buckley, capital campaign consultant attended the USO’s annual Stars & Stripes gala and discussed the National Wounded Warrior Center, a DSES program, with many  of the very dedicated people who were at the event, including board members, civic and business leaders as well as local philanthropists, Neil and June Ash. The nation’s largest USO facility is at San Diego International Airport and is named in honor of Neil for his most generous gift to the USO.

Nichelle Medina of CBS News 8, San Diego emceed, and the 600-plus attendees enjoyed a formal presentation of colors and a mini-concert of service anthems by the ultrasharp Marine Band San Diego. The event honored Sempra Energy executive Jessie Knight Jr. for building strong collaborations between local business and military leadership; Jim Zortman (Navy vice admiral, ret.) and the Northrop Grumman Employee Network for ongoing support of military families; and wounded warrior Nicholas Kimmel (Marine sergeant, ret.) for his exemplary service and indomitable spirit after losing both legs and his left arm in an explosion in Afghanistan.

To learn more about USO San Diego and their Annual Gala Click Here

 

 

Operation High Altitude, Wounded Warrior Camp, Mammoth Lakes, CA 2015

 

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Ryan and his service dog, Docker, set up camp at McGee Creek

Day 1: Five days prior, the participants either arrived by a chartered vehicle from a military base in Southern California or by aircraft, which flies into Mammoth via LAX. It is suggested to register with TSA Cares if you need assistance at the airport. I personally arrived a little behind schedule on Monday. I missed the initial camp setup and opted to go straight to Mammoth Lakes Fire Station #1 for the BBQ Dinner. It was a great environment to meet the involved people and it also gave me a comfortable atmosphere to relax in after a day of travel.

After dinner, everyone headed to McGee to settle in for the night. Making camp after dinner was not an issue! I had to borrow a tent, ground pad, sleeping bag and pillow from Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES), which was already setup for me in an ideal location within our campground. There are about 15 other tents setup with the large location. There are restroom facilities very nearby, which are accessible.

The main DSES Tent, large dinning area, is just across a small gravel road and adjacent to several stocked trout ponds. Breakfast is usually brought in by “The Breakfast Club,” but there is always plenty of snacks and drinks inside the tent. The site is overlooked by a mountain range, which was engulfed in clouds and was left snowcapped near the end of the week.

I sleep with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machine, which requires electrical power. Several extension cords were strung out to my site to help me out. I also brought a power strip, which was a convenient location to charge cell phones!   Although I must warn you that cell phone coverage is spotty at best within camp! I brought along my black lab service dog, Docker, who loves the outdoors, and he did not create any issues throughout the week. He quickly adapted to tent life and DSES staff or volunteers were more than happy to look after him while I was busy on the mountain. Our site was also right next to McGee Creek, which gave me a beautiful melody to fall asleep to.

Day 2: The second day of Operation High Altitude started out with a trip to Convict Lake, which is a mountain lake that is nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. I was paired with several DSES Members and kayaked across the lake and back. I also decided to purposefully flip over the kayak to personally validate to water’s temperature reading. Yup, it was a bit chilly. I would put it in the 40-50 degree range.

After our time on the water, we were off to the Convict Lake Resort for lunch. The Resort made us some tasty pizza, which fueled us for fly fishing that afternoon, but first we received some hands-on instructions and tips. We then boarded the DSES chartered bus and headed to the trout ponds at our campsite. Now, it was up to us to put those newly gained skills to the test and catch dinner! We ate our bounty the following evening so that night’s feast was specially made for us by a renowned chef. We had lasagna, salad, and garlic bread. Oh, was it delicious! Capping the night off with s’mores by the campfire was a perfect way to end the evening!

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Ryan rolls out for some cycling from Shady Rest Park

 

Day 3: The third day was the earliest morning, rightfully so! We were up and headed out of camp by 0700 to meet our Fishing Guides on Crowley Lake. It is a large reservoir that is also known for its trout fishing. The largest fish ever caught here was a Brown Trout weighing 26 pounds! We met our guides and boarded the boats to troll the lake. My boat caught 7 trout that morning. We released most of them, but kept a select few for dinner that night. After fishing, we headed over to Shady Rest Park for a great lunch which was made by VFW Post 8988; another wonderful meal to give us that extra edge.

We were already in a prime location to do some cycling. Mammoth Lakes has a great paved trail network for bike riding that offers great views of the Yosemite like terrain! After the great ride it was back to camp for a Service Dog presentation by Todd Young of Canine Companions For Independence (CCI). Todd gave a very informative presentation, which hopefully opened the veterans’ eyes to the useful assistance and truly professional quality of dogs that CCI provides.

After the conclusion of the presentation, it was time to load up on Omega 3! The fish was beautifully prepared with lemon juice and spices, although it still had that very natural flavor, and there was pizza for those not wanting try some Mammoth Lake’s most popular aquatic mammal. That was a wrap for Day 3, unless anyone wanted to gather up at the campfire.

Sierra Mountain Guides outfitted us all with climbing gear and helped us climb up a rock face down the mountain the next day. This climb had an awesome view of the Eastern Sierra’s at the top! I had been climbing there before, but the weather conditions and mentorship [sic] were ideal. That easily helped to make it an excellent day! Watching everyone climb, including an amputee, empowered me and help push me to climb to the top which then only made me feel even more confident in my own physical abilities! Our on-site lunch was provided by Silver Lake Resort.

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He left some skin on the rock face, but Ryan took his climbing skills to new heights

After lunch we could climb again, hike or bike. I personally chose to lay low. I donated a little skin to Mammoth Lakes and expended a bit of energy hauling myself up the rock face. Plus, I had to conserve my energy for the fabled “Hootenanny.”

A little rain didn’t stop the party back at camp. We shifted the party from a large open area to the main DSES Tent. Angel’s grilled some great food and a live banjo made it a true Hootenanny! This is something that you probably wouldn’t encounter in your normal activities in life, so it just shows you that a good time can be had outside your comfort zone!

Day 4: The last day was a mix of activities. The SoCal group headed out on their road trip home, while the remainder of the group suited up for some pool time. We spent about 2 hours horsing around in the water until we were forced out by the threat of lightening from the approaching storm clouds. We quickly changed and headed over to a bowling alley. However, we made a quick stop at a local coffee shop for a warm beverage.

We arrived at the complex and our group took over the last three lanes. I chose to bowl without the handicap ramp thingy. Yeah, that didn’t go so well. Me, I wasn’t competing with anyone but myself and I managed to have a good time.

My unintentionally routine gutter ball maneuvers only made everyone else’s throws look that much better. Ah, the glass is always half full. We played 2 or 3 games and then headed off to the Mammoth Airport.

Check-in at the aeropuerto was quick and painless. Shorty there after, everyone boarded the plane which was destine for LAX, and connecting flights were taken from there.

This ended Operation High Attitude. This is something that I seriously look forward to each year. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra has a saying: “If I can do this, I can do anything.”

I never put much stock into this until recently. This past week helped to strengthen my body in safe environment with activities that I thoroughly enjoyed. I will put this boost in both physical and mental strength to good use! I already miss Mammoth Lakes and can’t wait for the next DSES event. I have such a high after something like this that’s hard to find elsewhere!

Written by: Ryan Sykes, DSES Guest Blogger & DSES Athlete

We are thrilled to have Ryan as our newest guest blogger. Ryan draws upon his experience from writing intelligence assessments and target packages in the military.  He took English Comp classes in rehab after his injury and more recently took Speech and several Psychology classes. Look for more of Ryans blogs coming soon………….

If you are interested in guest blogging for DSES please contact Suzanne Baracchini at suzanne@disabledsportseasternsierra.org