Participant Stories & Testimonials

OLIVIA’S STORY

Olivia (pictured) was born with a disability that impacts muscle stamina, and stand-up skiing was something she could only do for a short time before becoming exhausted. This made skiing together as a family difficult.

Olivia’s family was planning a trip to northern Michigan where her family of skiers would enjoy the springtime snow. Prior to their visit, Olivia’s dad contacted Challenge Mountain about opportunities for her, such as volunteers to assist and adaptive equipment.

Upon their arrival, Challenge Mountain volunteers, equipped with a biski, met Olivia’s family at Boyne Mountain on a beautiful sunny day in March. Olivia immediately loved riding up the chairlift and flying down the hill in the biski with the Challenge Mountain volunteers. Before long, Olivia’s dad was comfortable skiing with the biski and even loading and unloading on the chairlift with a Challenge Mountain volunteer. By the end of the sunny afternoon, both of Olivia’s parents and her older brother were comfortable skiing and using the chairlift with Olivia. “This is what we do,” said one of the volunteers. “We help families living with disabilities recreate together.” Because of the instruction provided by Challenge Mountain volunteers, Olivia’s family has purchased a biski for her, and they will be able to spend more fun-filled days skiing together for many years.

LILLY’S CONFIDENCE GROWS

Part of an organized group of families who have children with visual or hearing impairments, Lilly and her family visited Challenge Mountain for a winter day of snowtime recreation.

With her visual impairment, Lilly was tentative about stepping out of her comfort zone and trying new things, like skiing. But with encouragement from her family and her volunteer ski instructor, Lilly’s confidence grew. She was making turns and stopping independently by the end of the day.

Lilly’s family was pleasantly surprised when they were given the opportunity to learn to ski right alongside Lilly.

In a thank you note, Lilly’s mom commented: “When we left you all that first day, Lilly said, ‘I never thought I could do something like that, but I did. If I can do that, then I can do…’ and she listed ten other things! You gave our girl the confidence to try something that she didn’t think she could do, and we are grateful.”

The experience was so positive and encouraging for the entire family that they returned to ski at Challenge Mountain two weeks later.

Gina Livingston - Blind Skier“Thank you so very much Challenge Mountain for providing the greatest adaptive ski experience!

“I was extremely nervous at first, not having skied in over two years and with now having to re-learn my favorite sport with my ever-changing, limited vision.

“However, my nerves quickly pushed aside working with Chuck Fletcher as an instructor. Through his great patience, help, and expertise we narrowed adaptive equipment down to the blind pole and how to apply neat tips/tricks so that we could ski side-by-side down the slopes using verbal cues.

“Chuck not only worked with me, but also dedicated time to having my boyfriend, Mike, shadow us and then take over the role as guide. By the end of the day, Mike was providing the verbal cues for us to ski together both with and without the use of the blind pole. It was a great test of the importance of communication and trust in our relationship. Even though it was scary at times, it felt amazing to regain some of my independence!

“In addition to Mike, please note that we had thirty of our friends at the resort this weekend who all spoke of various opportunities witnessing Chuck and I in action.

“Thank you, again, for the Blind Skier/Guide bibs that will come in handy if Mike and I are able to ski at our local slopes. As our appreciation to Chuck and Challenge Mountain we have made a small donation so that we and others in need of adaptive recreation can experience all that Challenge Mountain has to offer. We also plan on making a special trip to donate items to your resale store in the near future.

“I have the “Challenge Mountain bug” and have already been sharing my experiences with family, friends, and the UofM Kellogg Eye Center. Mike even shared his experience and showed a video he captured with my glaucoma doctor. She is familiar with Challenge Mountain’s summer services and now will be able to share more with her patients about winter programs.” — Gina Livingston

Christopher’s Story

This is Christopher’s story. Christopher wants to learn to ski, so his parents and grandparents bring him to a little hill in the woods near Walloon Lake. His family loves to ski and they want Christopher to feel the joy of flying on snow, but they are reserved in their hopes because Christopher is not able to walk or stand on his own.

Challenge Mountain volunteers give Christopher what he needs to learn to ski: they fit him with adaptive equipment specific to his needs, they encourage and instruct him. Christopher feels the cool wind in his face as he experiences flying on snow. Everyone is inspired by Christopher’s accomplishment and his grandfather’s words capture this life changing moment best:

“Our grandson is still beaming from ear to ear with delight and pride for what he experienced today. You gave him a big boost in his self-esteem and worth. It’s tough having all the cognitive abilities while being trapped in a body that doesn’t allow one to participate in all the activities that most 8 year old boys do. I would have never believed that he could ski, but thanks to your organization, he did so today. We are all very grateful.”  — Dick D. Winter 2014

Since 1984, volunteers at Challenge Mountain have watched children and adults with special needs become empowered as they learn to ski at the little mountain once known as Walloon Hills. Thirty years of countless smiles resulting in happy, healthy and longer lives delivered at no cost to clients and their families. Challenge Mountain continues to be committed to enriching lives and empowering people living with disabilities through year-round adaptive recreation. Our mission has been sustained through the work of many volunteers, financial gifts from donors and supportive communities. Great things happen together and with this tremendous support, Challenge Mountain continues to provide opportunities that change lives.

Kiwanis Essay Contest: Students Supporting Challenge Mountain

Each year students from Boyne City, Boyne Falls and Charlevoix are given an opportunity to participate in one of two Kiwanis Clubs’ Essay Contests. The essay question to answer: “If you had $100 to give to your favorite local charity that helps people, which charity would you give the contribution to and why?” Over the years, many students have written about Challenge Mountain and their passion for helping individuals in need of adaptive recreational opportunities.

Below are article links to award-winning essays focused on Challenge Mountain.

I like Challenge Mountain because they invite anyone with disabilities to ski or snowboard. They can play the games and go skiing to help people with disabilities like Cerebral Palsy. It was established in 1984. It was the first independent adaptive skiing program in Northern Michigan. They focus on having fun, making friends, building confidence and independence.

Challenge Mountain is a great place for people to ski. I thought it was fun when I went there with my class. I went snowboard and skiing. Their mission statement is “We believe that all people regardless of ability should have the opportunity to experience life and adventure.” This explains what they are trying to achieve.

They need the money for more gear like gloves and hats. The people that work there have lots of experience with the disability kids they work with. They have over 150 volunteers and they are super helpful? They give over 17,500 hours of their time every year. There is also a resale store where they sell things to earn money for the program. I think it is really important for the people they help to have personal pride and a sense of achievement. They also help people to understand people with disabilities and develop acceptance.

Please consider donating to this awesome charity that does such good work and has helped me personally. I gained self-confidence, had fun and made friends, all things I couldn’t have done without their help.

By: James Kewagshken
Eddie Essay
5th Grader | May 2018 Charlevoix Kiwanis VandenBerg Essay Winner 
Charlevoix Elementary School

Challenge Mountain began as a big dream from a woman named Darla Evans. In 1982 Darla took her daughter Christi to the National Sports
Center for the disabled in Winter Park, Colorado. Many birth defects and disabilities restricted Christi, so she just got pushed around in a wheelchair. Christi was put into a specially designed ski/wheelchair kind of thing and then was pulled up to the top of the mountain by a snowmobile. The first few times she was guided with a person on the back skiing along with her, but after that she got the hang of it and started having lots of fun. Two years later the Challenge Mountain Resort was founded. This organization is primarily made for disabled children and adults to come have fun skiing. Some days Challenge Mountain has a “free day of fun” where you can come in and ski, eat food, go on carriage rides, and many more fun things. I’ve actually been to one of those days. It was a blast. My favorite part was where you put on empty shoe boxes and try to walk on icy hills… I fell like a billion times.

I’m very determined that the hundred dollars will really benefit Challenge Mountain because first of all they are very kind and are willing to give disabled people a chance to have some fun. And second of all because they are a unique in what they provide to disabled people. Like I said, they are very kind. I actually know how the kids and adults feel when they go down the mountain because I have a disabled sister named Taylor. She loves going to the mountain. Whenever I see her coming down the hill she always has a smile on her face. Not very long ago Taylor went to Challenge Mountain on a field trip, her school does this about 1 to 2 times a year.

I chose this charity because it’s the only one like it in Northern Michigan. I also chose it because my sister goes there I thought it would be nice to add a family member into my essay. But I mainly chose it because when do you ever see somebody that has a disability zooming down an icy hill? Exactly, you don’t. So I really thought Challenge Mountain would deserve to have this hundred dollars.

I have a very good personal connection with Challenge Mountain, which is because of my sister Taylor, as I mentioned earlier. She goes there in the winter on school field trips and I go when they have the “free day of fun”. I really like Challenge Mountain, I know tons of people there, and sometimes Challenge Mountain is in the newspaper. Just by looking at pictures I can name a few people. I remember one time when I volunteered to guide my sister down the hill, it took some getting used to but it was fun after I got the hang of it. My mom and I sometimes go to the Challenge Mountain resale shop. They have some neat stuff in there, that’s actually where I got my hobo Halloween costume. We recently donated some used stuff that we had lying around the house. The thing that I like about the resale shop is that all the money that they make is given to provide recreational opportunities to disabled people throughout the year.

I really believe that my essay should be the winning essay because Challenge Mountain is a really great charity and is probably a dream for many disabled kids and adults. I’m hoping that my essay will win not just because I want it to, but also because Challenge Mountain deserves the hundred dollars. Even though the snow is all gone that doesn’t mean Challenge Mountain isn’t open. They also plan other recreational activities like bike riding, kayaking, picnics and many more things. So if you didn’t have anything to do, Challenge Mountain is always looking for good volunteers. Challenge Mountain is probably the kindest place I’ve ever been to… besides Disney World. Again I really believe that Challenge Mountain deserves this hundred dollars.

By: Liam R. LaFave
Boyne City Kiwanis Eddie Essay Gold Award Winner – May 2016
5th Grade | Mrs. Baxter
Boyne City Middle School

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