By Alicia Dziak
Who’s ready for lots of laughs on the slopes? Holiday Valley offers so many ways to support great causes while having a blast. One of the most unique events is the annual Penguin Paddle, approaching 30 years strong. This all-day event on Saturday, Feb. 21, combines silly downhill action with raising money for the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program (LASP).
Just what’s so “penguin” about this paddle?
“The Penguin Paddle has three main components: A huge cookout at the bottom of Yodeler, an auction at Yodeler Lodge and the Penguin Slide down the bottom of Yodeler slope. Participants put on a garbage bag and slide down the hill on their belly ‘penguin style,’” explained Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley’s director of marketing. “The goal is to raise awareness and funds for the Lounsbury Adaptive Program at Holiday Valley.”
From its beginnings many years ago, this event has been a real crowd pleaser. “The Penguin Paddle has changed greatly over the years. It started with about 30 Clevelanders and a few folks from Buffalo who were having an apres ski party on the hill. It was a potluck and after lunch we would don garbage bags and slide down Yodeler,” said Mary Ellen Racich, director of the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program. “Emily Eckley started passing around coffee cans to collect some money to help the Lounsbury Program. Each year it grew and more people volunteered to help. It would take a huge amount of space to name everyone who has helped over the years. We now have about 400 attendees.”
The best part about the Penguin Paddle experience? Knowing you’re doing it for a great cause.
“The Penguin Paddle is our major fundraiser,” said Racich. “We use the funds for equipment, instructor training, a scholarship program for those in need and we sponsor a day where Veteran disabled skiers can come and learn to ski. Last year we had 21 veterans.”
While LASP has changed over the years, the goal has remained the same: get people skiing and focusing on abilities, not disabilities.
“The Lounsbury Program has grown also,” added Racich. “We started with four instructors and the first year did 32 lessons. We now average 250 lessons and have 43 volunteer instructors.”
Does sporting a garbage bag while sliding down Yodeler sound like fun? Of course it does! Registration for the Penguin Paddle slide is $1 and includes your very own garbage bag! Sign up on Paddle Day from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Creekside Lodge, or from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Yodeler Lodge. Races begin at 1:30 p.m. Helmets are required.
Age groups are as follows: 4-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 12-14, 15-20, 21 and over, and mixed doubles (two person bags).
In addition to the slide, lunch in the tent can be purchased for a $5 donation. Silent and live auctions run from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the tent at the base of Yodeler, and raffle tickets will be on sale all day at Yodeler.
“We are raffling off a Holiday Valley ski pass, a $500 travel voucher and a pair of skis,” said Racich. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $5 each or five for $20.
Auction items include gift cards, ski clothing, ski equipment, beer baskets, wine baskets, golf items, local photographs, pictures, picture frames, event tickets and more.
Racich noted the generosity of the community for this event. “If I had to guess, I would say 90 percent of restaurants and shop owners in Ellicottville participate by making some sort of donation,” she said. “We are very grateful to the community and Holiday Valley for their support. The Penguin Paddle is successful because Holiday Valley and the community care about disabled children and adults.”
This is your chance to bring the kids and feel like one, too. What could be better than racing down the hill like a penguin, enjoying a cookout, trying your luck at winning some amazing items and spending the day with friends and family supporting a great cause? Waddle over to Holiday Valley on Feb. 21 and get in on the fun!
For more information, visit www.holidayvalley.com.
By Alicia Dziak