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Adaptive Spirit event brings Paralympians to Vail

Jasim Bambur, of Granby, skiis with Maja, 4, during the Adaptive Spirit on Friday on Vail Mountain. Bambur is part of the U.S. Alpine team and was able to ski with his daughter during the event.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com |

VAIL — The U.S. Winter Paralympic team joins executives from Cox, Cisco, HBO and more this weekend on Vail Mountain.

Bringing approximately 1,200 people to town and raising over $1 million while they’re here, attendees to the annual event, known as Adaptive Spirit, use the weekend in Vail to raise money for the Paralympic team, and to generate ideas that go on to change the way the telecommunications industry serves customers with disabilities.

This year, the keynote speaker at Adaptive Spirit’s education panel was Suzy Rosen Singleton, Chief of the Disability Rights Office at the Federal Communications Commission. Event co-founder Steve Raymond said the fact that the Federal Communications Commission sent its top disability specialist to Vail for Adaptive Spirit is a demonstration of the ripple effect the annual gathering has on the industry.

“We’re pushing the business forward by having people come together and talk about this,” Raymond said. “They talk to each other about best practices, and the industry ends up serving that community better. The larger companies that have FCC requirements to actually build and provide closed captioning, voice recognition, etc., have gone above and beyond some of (the requirements), because it’s good business, and they get to know the people who they are doing it for.”

BIGGEST FUNDRAISER

Raymond helped create the event during a time when the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team needed it most.

“The U.S. Disabled Team was going to go out of business,” Raymond said. “We created (Adaptive Spirit) … raised $100,000 and saved the team that year.”

The event has since become the single largest fundraiser for the Paralympic Team in the 22 years it has now been held in Vail.

In addition to the fundraising, the event’s education panel is what Raymond is most proud of at Adaptive Spirit.

“At the education panel we have the leaders of the telecommunications industry talk about all the new products and services that they’re developing to serve people with disabilities,” Raymond said.

In discussing those products, there is a big opportunity for design specialists to get a lot of feedback in a short amount of time while at Adaptive Spirit.

“It’s a concentrated event,” said Rich DiGeronimo, the Executive Vice President of Product and Strategy with Charter Communications. “And it brings a more personal feeling to the cause, because you realize these are amazing people.”

‘THEY MAKE IT POSSIBLE’

When adaptive snowboardcross because a part of the Paralympics in 2014, it also meant the discipline had been absorbed into the larger world of the U.S. Paralympic Team. Adaptive Spirit was quick to welcome the exciting new sport.

“These guys have been super welcoming, very kind to us and very giving, charitably,” veteran adaptive boardercross racer and X Games gold medalist Keith Gabel said Friday. “Without those guys, we can’t do what we do. Every year it costs $30,000 to $50,000 for six months of competition … These people, all of these companies, they make it possible, they not only help bring us together as a community but they literally put down the dollars so that I can afford to have dinner.”

On Saturday, the executives and the athletes got together on course for day of racing at Golden Peak, where it gets quite competitive. Disney sponsored a kids’ party for the group while awards were handed out. The event wraps up Sunday.

“And then at next year’s event, hopefully we are celebrating these athletes’ successes in South Korea,” Raymond said.


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