Children take life-changing journey to Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado “-Quinita Thomas is a Vail, Colorado skier and a student at the Colorado School For The Deaf and The Blind in Colorado Springs ” tell her she can’t do something and the determined 12-year-old will prove you wrong.
Quinita, or “QT” as people call her, was one of four blind middle school students from the school in the Foresight Ski Guides program this week. Mark Davis founded the Vail nonprofit in 2001 after losing his vision from multiple sclerosis complications in 1999. It’s people like Quinita who inspire him to keep the program going, he said.
She came barreling down the mountain with an ear-to-ear grin on her face, reached the bottom and said “I did it, heck yeah!” Davis just smiled.
“This is the good stuff,” he said. “This is why we do this.”
Bill Murphy, one of the Foresight volunteer guides, has been guiding blind skiers for 28 years. He comes back year after year because he says it’s just so gratifying to help people ski who would otherwise not be able to.
“I meet some of the most incredible people and I just get to experience joy,” Murphy said. “There’s a huge reward and it’s usually in the form of a smile.”
That’s the same reward the blind skiers typically get out of the experience, too. For Chu Scott, a 12-year-old seventh grader, he was smiling even after he lost control and crashed into a wooden fence on the bunny hill. His guide yelled to get him to turn, but Chu couldn’t stop.
Chu, like so many kids his age, bounced right back. He was a little shaken at first, but he put his skis back on and got on the magic carpet on his way to do another run.
“I’m enjoying myself very much; it’s exciting being out here,” Chu said. “I’m trusting my guides. I made one fall today, but I think I’ll be all right. … I love almost everything about (skiing).”
Sometimes people get hurt, but no more than any skier, Davis said. The program is all about trust, he says, which usually prevents crashes and injuries.
“They have to trust that we’re not going to run them into a fence, and we have to trust that when we tell them to do something that they do it right then and there,” he said.
Trust is something both Chu and Quinita had in their instructors and guides. Ruth Demuth, the Vail Ski School instructor helping Quinita this week, held onto Quinita’s ski poles and guided her down the mountain. She’d tell her to turn to 11 o’clock and to not let go. Quinita was skiing and she loved it.
“If I didn’t come here I would never know what skiing would be like,” she said. “I’d just be nervous all my life. I love it! Skiing is just awesome; the instructors and the guides, they’re just totally awesome.”
Quinita wasn’t just literally on top of a mountain, but also figuratively. She felt invincible with her skis on, and the outgoing student made sure everyone knew it.
“Are you ready to watch me do this,” she said to her Braille teacher, Randy Witte.
Witte, a teacher at the Colorado School for The Deaf and The Blind for 31 years, has been taking the students skiing with the Foresight program for about four years. He said the program has become so popular within the school that kids are practically begging to go on the trips.
Something Davis started focusing on recently was the students’ physical shape before arriving in Vail for the program. They would arrive in pretty bad shape, and by mid-morning many of them would be “pooped,” Witte said.
Davis designed some sports conditioning exercises that the students do in school in the weeks and months leading up to their trip. He says it’s done wonders for their endurance when they’re here skiing.
It was obvious Quinita benefited ” every time she finished a run she’d practically run back to the magic carpet so she could do it all over again.
“I gave myself a choice of saying, ‘OK, I’m just going to disappoint these guys and not do it,’ but I didn’t do that. I said, ‘OK, you know what, I’m going to impress these guys and show them what I can do, and I’m going to make their day,’ so I decided to do it.”
To learn more about the Foresight Ski Guides, a local nonprofit organization, visit http://www.foresightskiguides.org
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com