PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) — Utah teenagers with limb differences, including amputated or deficient limbs, took to the mountains in a ski and snowboard camp last week.
19 patients ages 12 to 17 from Shriners Children’s Hospital participated in a winter sports camp last week where instructors from the National Ability Center taught them how to ski and snowboard.
Th “Un-limb-ited camp has taken place for over 15 years, with many patients attending multiple years in a row throughout their teenage years. Some have even continued on to be Paralympians, according to the hospital.
While these camps offer multiple high-adventure activities throughout the year, many of the patients comment on the social connection and relatability they find in the camp environment.
“On a daily basis, I don’t get to have the opportunity to speak with other people and to get to share my experience with other people who know how I feel and feel the exact same way,” a patient named Tia said.
She continued to say that it is easy to judge someone and assume they are not capable of something, but that camp has taught her to keep an open mind.
The Nurse Care Manager at Shriners, Walter Durtschi, said this camp was a unique opportunity to see their patients outside of the hospital setting and to help the patients build a group, family mentality with their peers.
“We get to see them excel and adapt and do way better at things that the rest of us take for granted. I can tell you right now that half the kids up here are better than I am, and they wear me out! They are incredible,” Durtschi said with a laugh.
For some, this opportunity shows them that they are capable of doing what they did before their amputation or condition.
Laura Hollingshead, a Recreational Therapist at Shriner’s, told the story of a patient who had grown up skiing with his dad but lost his foot as a teenager. She said he was hesitant about attending the camp as he did not feel like he identified with the group. However, Hollingshead said he asked to ski with his dad on the last day of camp. Both the father and son met at the base and cried, saying they never thought they would be able to ski together again.
“Life has thrown them some major curveballs but they’re continuing to push through, they’re continuing to defy those odds and that’s what makes them unlimited,” Hollingshead said.
While an amazing experience for some, there are some inherent fears or challenges in participating in winter sports with special abilities.
A Shriners patient named Tyler said he was afraid to attend the camp as he had recently had surgery and could not wear his prosthesis.
“I was really afraid that it was just going to be painful day after painful day. There was definitely painful times, nights are always hard, but I’ve been able to push through and have fun.”
Tyler said the camp taught him to get back up again and push through the hard, painful moments.
The camp is hosted by the National Ability Center and Shriners Children’s Hospital and took place at Park City Mountain Resort. Donations from local dance studios’ performance “Art with Heart” allowed the camp to be offered for free.