The biggest fundraiser for the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports (VISAS) is coming up later this month, and there’s still time to register a team.
The 2016 Herb Bradley Challenge, a fun race named after the founder of adaptive snowsports in the Comox Valley, takes place Feb. 21 at Mount Washington Alpine Resort.
Proceeds from this event support adaptive snowboard and ski programs for more than 500 participants each season.
VISAS provides opportunities for people with disabilities to learn to ski and snowboard in a safe, supportive and fun environment.
“Our job is to put smiles on faces,” VISAS states in a press release. “Our students are people with all manner of challenges arising from injury, illness and other impairments. To enable them to build on their abilities, we use a lot of very specialized instruction techniques and equipment. This involves providing a very high level of training for our volunteers and maintaining an extensive inventory of adaptive equipment.”
This year, VISAS has about 90 instructors, according to Tom Clarke of Campbell River, who is an instructor and the society’s president. While most volunteers are from the Comox Valley, several do call Campbell River home.
Mike and Laura Stubbs are two of those Campbell River volunteers who spend their time at Mount Washington.
“We do it just for the reward,” Mike Stubbs said last week while volunteering with the National Veterans’ Ski Week. “It’s so rewarding when you do get somebody and get them out there and you can teach them to ski.”
The Stubbses were very involved in the Mount Washington Ski Club before, and they had seen VISAS (which was called the Vancouver Island Skiing for the Disabled Society at the time) on the mountain. Laura always wanted to help out the disabled skiers, and they decided to try it out, explained Mike.
Once they joined VISAS, the club put them through the required training. In the first year, they earned their Level 1 instructors ticket, and then the next year, they earned their Level 2A certification, which includes the ability to instruct and demonstrate the use of the sitski, which is used for people who are paralyzed from the waist down. The Stubbses have now been with the program for 11 years.
VISAS welcomes anybody with mental or physical challenges, and the program runs every day there is snow on the mountain, except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, explained volunteer Glen Hooge.
VISAS is a registered charitable organization run exclusively by volunteers, so all the money raised by an event like the Herb Bradley Challenge (HBC) goes into equipment and operational expenses.
“The Herb Bradley Challenge allows us to provide opportunities to people who might not otherwise get them to go out and slide on the snow and really enjoy the mountains,” event organizer Brian Gorman said in a press release. “With the generous support from Peter Gibson and his team at Mount Washington, the VISAS program has grown to be one of the biggest in western Canada, offering people with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities the opportunity to get out each winter and have fun on the slopes and trails. The money raised from the HBC enables VISAS to buy equipment, provide lessons and run our snowsports festivals free of charge to learners of all ages and abilities.”
To join the fun, gather together a team of three people who want to ski or snowboard and are willing to take on a gentle slalom course. No racing experience is required.
The entry fee is $300, which includes lunch and lift tickets for team members, as well as a charitable donation.
“Each team will be allocated one of our friendly students for the race,” said Gorman. “The team closest to their ‘guess-timated’ time is the winner. The short race takes place in the morning and you have the rest of the day to enjoy the mountain experience and find out more about what VISAS does.”
For more information about the Herb Bradley Challenge, contact Brian Gorman at 250-218-6335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To download a registration form, visit visasweb.ca.