The edge of happiness - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


The edge of happiness

Wilmot Mountain

Jim Sharkey rides up the ski lift at Wilmot Mountain with members of Adaptive Adventures. Sharkey, a Veteran, last used upright skis in 2010.

By Benjamin Slane
Friday, January 30, 2015

Click here for a  60-second time lapse video.

For 81-year-old Jim Sharkey, it was like to remembering how to ride a bicycle. He used a seated-ski on the slopes of Wilmot Mountain after a 5-year gap since last skiing upright.

“Beautiful,” said Sharkey, “just beautiful.”

A handful of Veterans ascended the slopes at Wilmot in southeast Wisconsin as part of a recreational outing for Veterans with spinal cord injuries. This same group of Veterans are preparing for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held in Snow Mass, Colo., every year since 1987.

Sharkey, a U.S. Army National Guard Veteran, suffered debilitating back injuries that prevented upright skiing at the ski hill where he once instructed. On this run, he used a seat-ski with specially designed ski poles with mini-skis Skarkey used to assist in turning. Without the use of the lower body, the ski poles are imperative.

The beauty of it all, said Sharkey, “I do not even need to relearn skiing.”

“That is the beauty of adaptive sports,” said Linda Tomsevics, program manager at Adaptive Adventures, a non-profit charity that provides adaptive sports to people with debilitating injuries. “It is just great they can get out here and participate in these sports.”

This group of Veterans from the Milwaukee VA participated from the time they arrived at 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. They hit the runs hard, run after run.

Erinn Kulba, a recreation therapy student at the Spinal Cord Injury Center, helped Veterans mount the skis at Wilmot and says the experience is very positive.

“The Veterans are making connections with community resources and participating in adaptive sports,” said Kulba. “It is a great opportunity to connect with others in the community. They make friends with volunteers, staff and other veterans all while enjoying a winter sport.”

For at least an hour after Sharkey was assisted in removing the skis, he was nothing short of a golden smile.

“You cannot believe how happy it makes me. This is closer to real skiing then I even imagined. I recommend this to everyone.”

Interested in adaptive sports at VA? Talk to your primary care provide or this link


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