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Operation Mountain Freedom 2018: Wounded Warriors Excel at Winter Sports
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra welcomes old and new friends to 12th annual camp for military athletes.
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA – Tuesday, January 30, 2018. After a powerful week of sun and snow, the entire Mammoth Lakes community celebrates a successful Wounded Warrior Operation Mountain Freedom. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES), in partnership with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, hosted Operation Mountain Freedom 2018. Wounded Warriors and their guests came to Mammoth from across the country to face challenges and fears while alpine skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. In its 12th year, Operation Mountain Freedom brought together more athletes and guests than ever, and every participant – including volunteer and staff – experienced thrills, connected with each other, and made memories. At the end of the week, nearly all participants asked how they can come back to experience more.
Participants experienced many “firsts” throughout the week, such as the first-time snowboarding, first time in snow, first time making beautifully executed turns down a black diamond run, first time seeing a spouse this happy in a long time, and first time feeling at ease since their injuries.
Some of the toughest tests for participants recovering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) were the social challenges. For example, Eilis, acknowledged gasps of shock as she stood up to speak at the farewell dinner, saying she could not look anyone in the eye on day one, but proudly stood in front of the group to express her joy and gratitude by day four. Maggie Palchak, Program Director, said, “I heard so many staff and volunteer instructors sharing tales of the skills and progress made by their athletes. As the week progressed, the smiles grew bigger and the hugs grew warmer and stronger.” Sarah, also a Wounded Warrior, was moved to tears by her Wounded Warrior husband’s healing experience saying, “I have not seen him this joyful in a very long time.”
In a message to participants at the close of the program, Palchak highlighted how the program inspires everyone involved. “I want to acknowledge all the Wounded Warriors and guests who made the journey to our mountain and trusted us to challenge you in so many ways. Thank you, also for sharing your stories with us,” she wrote. “You fill us with hope and joy. Thank you, as well, to all the amazing volunteers who gave your time, skill, and energy, sharing your passion for the mountains and snow sports with our Wounded Warriors.”
DSES Executive Director Kathy Copeland said, “We see the change in these men and women and want to provide more lifesaving opportunities for them. It’s because of our community and specifically the shared mission to make the Wounded Warriors’ lives better that this is possible.” The Board of Directors and staff of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra want to thank all volunteers and event sponsors who put so much into making Operation Mountain Freedom possible: Disabled Sports USA, US Department of Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports Grants, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Steve and Dana Garcia, the staff of Alaska Airlines and TSA at Mammoth-Yosemite Airport, Simone Ardoin and Scottie Marzonie of Mammoth Taxi, The Westin Monache Owners and the The Westin Monache Resort, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority, Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, Amy Ambellan, Kathy Moon, General TS Jones (ret.), Ed and Kathy Curry, Sergeant Major Julio and Maggie Meza, Ed and Kathy Hurley and Burgers Restaurant, Canine Companions for Independence, Miles Weaver, Mark Brownlie, Col Jason “Woody” Woodworth, Good Life Café, Sue Ebersold, Ken and Jen Roberts, John Snelson, Willy Buhl, and Cindy Stern.
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra is a nationally recognized adaptive sports program that offers year-round instruction for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. Based in and around beautiful Mammoth Lakes, CA, we create inspiring challenges, provide expert instruction, and rally the community to comfortably accommodate people with disabilities. Since 2007, DSES has developed lessons and programs specifically for military athletes. We are currently working on an initiative to build a comprehensive National Wounded Warrior Center to support military athletes in Mammoth Lakes throughout the year. Visit us at: www.disabledsportseasternsierra.org. For more information on the National Wounded Warrior Center, visit: www.woundedwarriorsmammoth.org.