In 2013, a friend invited me to attend a fundraiser for the Double H Ranch at a favorite restaurant. During the evening a woman and her son, both of whom I know from my church, approached the podium. They both spoke about how transformational the Double H Ranch has been for their family. The boy said he loves the Double H more than any place in the world. It’s his one happy place where he can be himself. No one judges him when he is at the camp. He even learned to ski in the winter program at the Double H Ranch. He’s just a kid like every other kid you would know. Except, he has a very rare form of cancer.
They were looking for skiers in the audience that maybe could volunteer their time to take children skiing at the ranch on weekends during the winter. Without more instructors many kids would be left sitting home and not be able to ski at the camp. That’s when I noticed I was crying. It’s also when I raised my hand and volunteered to get off my couch on a Saturday and go teach kids how to ski.
These children have a range of diagnoses so diverse and complex that no one-size fits all. Somehow the magic of the Adaptive Winter Sports Program teaches all these kids to ski or snowboard.
It’s tough to identify any one proudest achievement through my years of volunteering at the Ranch. Proudest moments occur over time. I have had many first-time students that have never skied before. The best times are when you see the smile on a child’s face when you tell them how proud you are of their effort and accomplishments.
I remember telling one mother “Congratulations! It looks like your son is a skier!” I loved that moment. That same mother approached me a few years later and told me that she had also learned to ski. Now, she and her son ski independently together during the week at a local mountain. She said they had never done anything outside of their home together before the Double H ski program. And, she said it was because of me. Wow.
I’ve skied with a student multiple weekends while his mother stayed in the ski lodge studying for a nursing exam. I remember the joy of the entire family when she passed! She told me that she would not have had the time to study were it not for the time I spent skiing with her son.
As instructors, we try to help these kids and their families enjoy normal lives. That’s the magic of Double H Ranch. We try to give the kids a skill that builds their confidence and encourages them to become active participants in their community. They all so desperately want the chance. In my own small way, I am very proud to help encourage them to achieve their goals.
By Karl Seitz, Adaptive Winter Sports Program Volunteer
Karl is a Financial Advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors. He enjoys spending time with his family at Lake George and Saratoga during the summer. In the winter, he is a volunteer ski instructor for the Adaptive Winter Sports Program. Karl is an incredible teacher and his compassion and support for the kids we serve has helped countless children find confidence and enjoy the thrill of a winter sport.