Operation Mountain Freedom 2019

From Jan. 28 through Feb. 1, wounded, injured, and ill service members and veterans from across the country participated in adaptive skiing, snowboarding, and community programs.

MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA – Tuesday, February 5, 2019. The blue skies, moderate temperatures, and some fresh snow set the perfect scene for wounded, ill, and injured military athletes to face their on-snow challenges during the 2019 Wounded Warrior OPERATION MOUNTAIN FREEDOM (OMF). This was the 13th year Mammoth Mountain hosted Wounded Warrior OPERATION MOUNTAIN FREEDOM, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra’s (DSES) winter program for adaptive military athletes. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area contributed lift tickets, rentals, event space, meals, and more to wounded warrior participants. This year’s OMF participants numbered 63 wounded warriors, staff, and guests – the largest OMF group to date.

During the week, DSES staff and volunteer instructors watched athletes’ confidence grow with their skills on snow. Three jam-packed days of alpine and Nordic skiing and snowboarding for participants, many new to the sports, along with group breakfasts, lunches, and dinners culminated in a fun afternoon of play at Woolly’s tube park. For participants, the true success of the week is connecting with each other and sharing stories while discovering new abilities. As the week progressed, the smiles grew bigger and the hugs grew warmer and stronger.

Special extracurricular events during the program included a presentation by Canine Companions for Independence, an art therapy by Project AIM (Art Inside Me), the traditional Arch of Honor where participants are cheered on by community members while going through a celebratory arch of raised ski poles, and a presentation of a new purple heart to Corporal Roy Cratty, after his original was burned in the Paradise Fire. CBS affiliate KPIX and FOX News newscasters were on site to capture the action (watch the FOX clip at: https://bit.ly/2ScIaxT).

Top: Athlete Sarah with Volunteers Cindy and Jack – Photo by Susan Baribault. Middle: Aerial view of an athlete with volunteers – Photo by Wayne Smith.

Bottom: Volunteers Barb and Lee with Athlete Taylor – Photo by Peter Markle.

www.disabledsportseasternsierra.org | www.woundedwarriorsmammoth.org

Left: Athlete Damon with Volunteer Emily. – Photo by Susan Baribault. Right: Athlete Roy with DSES Exchange Instructor Dean – Photo by Wayne Smith.

Since the inception of OMF, the number of participants has grown exponentially as have the number of mentors. Mentors, such as Major General TS Jones (ret.), give participants hope, guidance, and inspiration. Jones told participants that their journey giving back and serving others is not over, that staying connected with others is crucial, and that this entire week was made possible by the passion, commitment, and expertise of volunteers, donors, and staff. Jones reminded everyone that the connectivity and opportunity that Operation Mountain Freedom provides is “a blessing of liberty”.

DSES is grateful for the more than 80 incredible volunteers who gave their time, skills, and energy, sharing their passion for the mountains and snow sports with participants. DSES also wishes to extend their gratitude for the generous sponsors who makes this week extraordinary: Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Disabled Sports USA, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, The Westin Monache Resort, The Rudders, Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, Burgers Restaurant, Good Life Café, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority, Sue Ebersold, The Currys, The Hamiltons, The Wolfes with Canine Companions for Independence, Sharon DeMattia and Project AIM, the cooking crew (including Hilary Schroeder, Randee Levin, Betsie Greenwood, Tomoko Jost, Leslie Markovitz, Amy Ambellan, Dale Fulkerson, Maggie Wahl, Pat Smoogen, Tricia Diamand, Becky Takayesu, Noreen Wilbur, Sharon Landes, Alan Yata, Kim Montgomery, and Andrea and Tony Pighetti), the event decorators extraordinaire (especially Amy and Steve Ambellan and Kathy and Bert Moon), and photographers (Wayne Smith, Peter Markle, Sue Baribault, and Andrea Pighetti).

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.




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.

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.

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

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

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.


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]

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?


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

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.



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.

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.


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.


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…


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.



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.

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