By: LuAnn Georgia, Warrior Transition Command Stratcom Division
With fall beginning, many people like Lt. Col Danny Dudek are looking forward to a break from the heat and a chance to get back to winter weather activities. Dudek, an avid sports fan and eight-time medal winner at Warrior Games for swimming, is looking forward to getting back on the slopes with the Wintergreen Adaptive Sports Program.
This will be Dudek’s third year skiing with the Wintergreen Adaptive Sports crew, and he is excited to share their story and what it’s meant to him.
“After becoming disabled in Iraq, I started looking for things I could do. I was looking for things I could enjoy and that I’d have the ability to improve on to a level of independence. Downhill alpine skiing falls into that category for me,” Dudek said. The Wintergreen Adaptive Sports program opened up new options for Dudek. “I learned that it doesn’t matter what your injury level is, they have a way of getting anyone on the snow. Once I was up the mountain, I was able to work towards skiing independently. I was able to ski every slope and, although I did end up sliding down hill on my back sometimes, I truly loved it.”
In addition to their ongoing programs, for the past 10 years Wintergreen Resort in Wintergreen, Va. has held a Wounded Warrior Weekend. Although the event is called Wounded Warrior Weekend, Dudek pointed out “the focus is not just on the warrior. There’s skiing instruction, tubing, warming rooms, and activities for spouses, parents and kids. No one is left out, and at the end of last year’s event you could tell that everyone left happy and exhausted.”
With support from Disabled Sport USA, Wintergreen Adaptive Sports provides food, cold weather clothes and equipment for the weekend to all athletes, regardless of the injury or disability.
“Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guard Seamen and Soldiers all participate and have a story to tell,” said Dudek. “The injuries and disabilities are as varied as each service member’s background. What’s special about the event is that the whole Wintergreen, Va. community gets involved. There were over 30 families that opened up their homes to wounded warrior Families last year. They provided a place to rest and encouraged interaction without expecting anything in return.”
“I can’t wait until it starts snowing again. I have my equipment all ready and am looking forward to improving on my skills and what I was able to do last year. I may even attempt to go on the terrain park and enjoy some of the jumps. Who knows,“ said Dudek.
The WTC Community Support Network lists resources that offer products and services that are either free, covered by insurance, or significantly reduced in price with all costs being disclosed up front and prior to any agreement between the organization and all wounded, ill or injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, and Caregivers. The Wintergreen Adaptive Sport Program, a WTC Community Support Network member, offers winter and summer programs to individuals with cognitive and or physical disabilities. Both programs offer a wounded military weekend during January and August. Scholarships are available to those unable to pay. For more information about how you can participate, visit www.wintergreenadaptivesports.org.
Learn more about the WTC Community Support Network and the resources and assistance provided by more than 350 organizations by visiting http://www.WTC.army.mil/community.