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Hope on the slope: Nonprofit seeks volunteers to help those with mobility challenges enjoy downhill skiing

A volunteer with Hope Inc. helps a girl with mobility challenges enjoy downhill skiing. Submitted Photo

The winter sports season is upon us. As people pull out their skis and snowboards, eager to hit the snowy slopes, Hope Inc. is asking people to consider volunteering some time helping kids and adults with mobility challenges enjoy Detroit Mountain too.

Hope Inc. is a non-profit organization with a goal "to provide family-friendly sporting and recreational opportunities critical to the health and development of children and adults." With the help of volunteers, the organization offers a range of sport programs for adults and children who have mobility challenges.

The group has partnered with Detroit Mountain to offer an adaptive ski program on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The program will begin in January and run until about mid-March, but Hope Inc. is hoping to bring in a few volunteers before then to make sure they're set for the season.

"We're always looking for people that are interested in helping with the program," said Craig Dummer, a board member of Hope Inc. who heads up the ski program.

Dummer says volunteering isn't a huge commitment by any means. They don't require any training, and the cost of being on the mountain (lift passes and such) is covered by Hope Inc., so there is no out-of-pocket cost to the volunteer.

He says they're looking for people with a fun attitude and strong ski skills, and that's about it.

"We train them at the hill. We always have one lead instructor that's done it for a couple years that will be with each participant," said Dummer, adding that new volunteers are invited to shadow until they feel comfortable guiding participants down the hill by themselves.

As for guiding down the hill, Hope Inc. has a couple of different sleds, a mono-ski and a bi-ski. With the mono-ski, participants are able to use some of their own upper-body strength to help guide themselves down the slopes. A bi-ski is for those participants who maybe don't have that upper-body strength.

"We take kids ranging from three, four years old up to teenagers. We do have a few adults that participate, too," said Dummer.

In the past, Dummer says the adaptive skiing program has mainly catered to kids, just due to the fact that their sleds are small with about a 150-pound weight limit. This year, though, they were able to buy a bigger sled, so they are hoping to be able to get more adult participants in the program.

More sleds and more participants means a need for more volunteers, though. Dummer says he's got a pretty loyal core group of about six volunteers who have stuck with the program pretty much since it began back in 2008. He says others come and go, maybe they participate for a season, then can't anymore, or they can only come one or two Sundays during the program, all of which is fine. He needs people who want to be there every week as well as people who may just want to fill in from time to time.

"You know, a lot of weekends people can't make it, or I'm busy and can't make it," he said, adding that scheduling is flexible that way, so volunteers shouldn't think they have to commit being there every weekend from Jan. 1 to March.

The program has about 30-plus participants, but they only take about four individuals out per week, so the group is small and low-key. Often times, it's a few participants with their families, who are welcome to tag along and watch or ski, too.

"We like to have fun and have fun with the families," said Dummer, adding, "It's not a big commitment, but it's a very rewarding commitment.

Anyone interested in volunteering or thinking about just tagging along to see what it would be like to volunteer can visit hopeinc.org to learn more or call 701-866-9002 or email info@hopeinc.org.

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