STRIDE was founded in 1985 as an adaptive sports program designed to educate and empower children with special needs.
We expanded our mission a little over a decade ago to include another group of individuals struggling with physical and mental challenges – Wounded Warriors.
Looking back now, the potential of integrating the two groups seems obvious, but STRIDE’s warrior and youth programs initially ran independent of each other. We eventually began looking for opportunities to link the two groups, believing that participants might enjoy even greater benefits from working together.
The results from this union have far surpassed anything we could have imagined. To fully understand the impact each group has had on the other, one need look no further than the story of Colin and Kevin.
Colin, who has Down syndrome, was a member of our adaptive skiing program at Jiminy Peak. After several years, however, he grew bored with skiing. He wanted to be like one of the “cool kids” gliding down the mountain on a snowboard.
For the next 2 ½ years, Colin dedicated himself to learning how to snowboard. Like many who take up the sport, he struggled with the concept of linking his turns. He would fall. Get up. Fall. Get up. But he never wavered in his commitment.
Near the end of his third season of snowboarding, Colin’s instructor decided to take him from the beginning learning terrain to the beginner hill. With a tether around his waist and lots of support from his coach, Colin began linking turns together on the trail!
Colin seemed poised for a breakthrough on the slopes, but when he arrived the following season, he found a different instructor in place. Kevin, a disabled veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, would be Colin’s new coach.
When Colin and Kevin met, it was as if they’d known each other their entire lives. The bond of trust that quickly formed between the two allowed Colin to set aside his fears and begin his transformation into a snowboarder.
Kevin then began experiencing some mental health issues related to his diagnosis that caused him to step away from the program. As soon as he left, Colin regressed.
During his time away from the program, Kevin realized how much being an adaptive coach was helping him, and he decided to return.
One rainy Sunday morning at the end of February the pair was reunited at Jiminy Peak. They decided to celebrate the occasion by heading to the top of the mountain.
For 1 ½ hours, Colin and Kevin deliberately worked their way down the slope. Their descent was marked by a few tears, some occasional fear, but mostly joy. Pure, unfiltered joy.
We tend to think of heroism as an historical achievement performed on a grand stage. More often than not, however, acts of heroism take place out of the public eye in ways that are more subtle, but arguably more impactful.
One wet day in late winter, two young men displayed their own form of heroism – not by scaling a mountain, but by coming down it. By the time they reached the bottom, each one had helped the other overcome something he could not have done on his own. That day Colin and Kevin became heroes to each other.