Zack's Place Adaptive Sports
Enrichment Programs for People with Special Needs in the Woodstock VT Area Zack's Place Adaptive Sports

Adaptive Sports

Special Olympics Snowshoe Team

The ZP Special Olympics Snowshoe Team partners an athlete from ZP with a mainstream student from the Woodstock Union High School. Weekly practices are held starting at the end of December until competition day in March. Our practices start with a team meeting, an inspirational song we all sing together, and an inspirational word, with each member sharing their ideas of what that word means to them. We stretch, then our snowshoe partners head into the snow to warm up, followed by a brisk walk and end up with sprints and relays. The practice ends with a wrap up of the day's progress.

Volunteering for the Special Olympics: A Personal View
by Bailee Gannon

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports Programs with Zack's Place

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports (VASS) is committed to empowering individuals with disabilities. They promote independence and further equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational activities.

Vision: Vermont Adaptive believes sports and recreation provide a physical, mental and social experience that is immeasurable in promoting self-confidence and independence in an individual. We encourage people of all ages and disabilities to participate in our year round recreational sports programs, and we provide support for people who need financial assistance in order to participate with Vermont Adaptive.

What they do: Vermont Adaptive conducts over 3,000 adventures on an annual, year-round basis. We serve children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional/behavioral disabilities. Over 400 trained volunteer teach all of their lessons with amazing commitment to our mission.

Volunteers: Vermont Adaptive succeeds because of its more than 400 dedicated volunteers. They are devoted individuals who have a passion for sports and want to share that passion with others Our volunteers dedicate their free time to help individuals with disabilities discover their abilities and achieve their dreams. They are from all walks of life but have one mission in mind—to help those with disabilities enjoy sports and recreation on a daily basis. Vermont Adaptive volunteers are asked to participate in required clinks and trainings provided by Vermont Adaptive. We demand and receive the highest ethical standard of conduct expected and deserved by the public to enable the organization to continue to offer our services. We operate under a strict code of conduct, applicable to volunteers and staff.

Current adaptive programs include: Alpine skiing, snowboarding, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, indoor rock climbing, therapeutic horseback riding, cycling, and special event activities including camping, dog sledding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and water skiing.

Zack's Place Partners with VASS in 4 Sports Programs

An Ottauquechee Health Foundation grant has allowed Zack's Place to offer these sports programs through the services of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport, the largest non-profit organization in Vermont offering sports programs to persons with disabilities (VASS). At the onset of these programs, a number of participants were apprehensive and nervous. Stepping off solid ground, whether into a boat, up onto a horse, or onto ski's presented new and varying challenges to all. But anxieties and challenges were met with positive solutions as each participant was individually helped and encouraged.

It is sometimes hard to gauge the effects of an activity or program, but that is certainly not the case here. Our participants enjoyed remarkable results in overcoming their fears and physical challenges. For instance, one seriously overweight participant overcame balance and mobility issues and managed to climb into a canoe with a VASS volunteer and then proceeded to happily row around the large lake. Another participant with a real fear of being on the water took eight weeks of encouragement before he finally stepped into a kayak. Once he accomplished that impressive feat, he was overflowing with confidence and pride. Two other participants were extremely uneasy around horses and had little interest in the horseback riding program; however, they both overcame their fears and in a matter of weeks were grooming the horses and leading them about. The confidence and pride exhibited in their achievements was concrete. All of these individuals had overcome physical and mental hurdles previously unchallenged.

These are challenging programs that provide physical and mental experiences that are far above and beyond many of our participants' dreams for themselves. We hope to continue to support this collaboration between Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport and Zack's Place. In the fall of 2012, ZP met VASS at the Suicide Six parking lot to try our hand at adaptive cycling. This winter we are continuing our VASS ski program at Suicide Six that not only includes Nordic skiing but also a Special Olympics Ski Team. Next summer, we hope our funding allows us to continue with horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and cycling.

Skiing with VASS

Our skiing program begins the first week of January and is held at Suicide Six, a nearby ski area. The bus leaves ZP with a handful of anxious athletes ready to handle what the weather has in store for them that day. Upon our arrival at the ski area we are greeted by well-trained VASS volunteers who individually partner with each athlete. The participant is then outfitted with proper adaptive equipment and immediately up onto the slopes they go. The participants are taught how to get on and off the lifts; and how to stop, turn and ski. Those who are non-ambulatory are outfitted with adaptive equipment that enables them to sit in a chair mounted on skis and taught to lean from side to side to help control the direction of the "sitz" kis. The VASS volunteers work in pairs here, with one holding the "reins" and another skiing alongside giving directions. Others are taught on tether equipment until they are confident skiing independently with their VASS volunteer always nearby.

The athletes are accompanied by two ZP staff members who go out and about with the athletes onto the snow. It is wonderful to see each athlete progress through the different stages of learning; some moving along quickly, others more slowly. At the end of the two hour program they all wind up in the lodge telling stories of their days' accomplishments. They take breaks on cold days to warm up with a hot chocolate or a cookie. Always they come in with smiles and the confidence that taking on the world of downhill skiing gives one. It is especially wonderful to see those athletes in "sitz" skis as they whiz down the mountain with the wind in their bundled up and helmeted faces, hearing them squeal with glee and laughter. Indeed, what could be better!!!

Vermont Adaptive Horse Back Riding

Another Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport program offered by ZP is the therapeutic riding program at Moonrise Farm in Taftsville, Vermont. As one might imagine, the challenges of horseback riding to those with severe physical disabilities are significant. One of our participants, who has Cerebral Palsy and is typically in a wheelchair with significant muscle contractions managed to be placed astride a horse with four volunteers working in harmony to achieve this. Once she was on the horse, her face broke into a huge smile and, incredibly, she held herself erect in away that she cannot do in her chair. Her joy in overcoming another challenge was not only therapeutic to her emotionally, but she soon started using muscles not used before.

The VASS therapeutic riding program at Moonrise Farm provides individual and group lessons for persons with physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioral and learning challenges. All programs are designed to meet the particular therapeutic or educational needs of the individual.

The program provides an opportunity to:
  • Build self-esteem and trust
  • Foster healthy communication, boundaries and respect
  • Overcome fear, anxiety and trauma
  • Get immediate feedback from the horse regarding ones behavior and emotional state
  • Stimulate cognitive and psychosocial capacity
  • Experience success
  • Develop emotional growth
  • Learn new skills
  • Expand and enhance physical abilities
  • Have Fun!!!

Moonrise Farm therapeutic riding program provides individual and group lessons for students with physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioral and learning challenges. All programs are designed to meet the particular therapeutic and educational needs of the student.

Student activities may include:
  • Grooming and getting to know the horse they will work with.
  • Tacking and untacking the horse.
  • Groundwork such as leading activities, round penning and lunging.
  • Mounted activities: walk, trot and canter, ground poles, small jumps and games.
  • Barn management skills such as feeding the horses and cleaning the stalls.

Lesson Outcomes: Safety, Fun, Learning, in that order, provide the cornerstones of each of our lessons. To take into account each individual's personal goals and expectations and work with them toward accomplishing these goals.

The goals of our programs are:
  • To provide the opportunities for peoples with disabilities to partake in new life challenges through Vermont Adaptive programs and experience the mental, physical, emotional, and social aspects of sports and recreation.
  • To provide information so participants become knowledgeable and comfortable with the safety factors related to sport and recreational activity.
  • To aid clients in becoming self-sufficient participants.
Canoeing and Kayaking

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports meets the ZP participants at Silver Lake with a proper amount of volunteers to support our participants in this water sport. The ZP participants help unload boats and transport them to the beach area. Afterwards athletes are paired up with VASS volunteers and suited with safety equipment. They board their water crafts and launch out for an exciting adventure with scenic nature all around. As the group of boats meander around the lake taking in the different sights, participants develop paddling skills and learn how to work together to accomplish a common goal. Afterwards the group sits on the beach, swims and socializes enjoying the beautiful lake facility.

Adaptive Cycling

This is another Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport program, and we at ZP have only undertaken it on a trial basis; however, our participants loved it and we hope to include it in our regular programming before too long. Once again, the VASS volunteers met our bus at the Suicide Six parking lot with a trailer full of adaptive cycles and protective gear. Once mounted on their new vehicles, our participants peddled furiously around the parking lot, again, loving the mobility and a chance to try something new and challenging. Some of our happy "cyclers" were so enamored of the new sport that they only reluctantly relinquished their cycles. Our hope is to commence a cycling program in late spring and early fall.

Special Olympics Snowshoe Team
Vermont Adaptive Ski Program Participants at PIco Peak
Adaptive Skiing
Special Olympics Competitor
Vermont Adaptive Skiing
Special Olympics Competitors
Snowshoe Practice
Adaptive Horseback Riding at Moonlight Farm
Special Olympics Golf Team
Riding at Moonrise Farm
Rock Climbing
Adaptive Canoeing and Kayaking
Adaptive Cycling

Where bonds of friendship and self-confidence flourish.

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