By Rick Miller

More than 20 veterans of the U.S. military took part last Friday, March 1 in the 15th annual Adaptive Ski Program Day at Holiday Valley.

Volunteers from the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program worked one-on-one with members of the Western New York Veterans Administration Rehabilitation Program on the slopes. 

It’s the 30th year for the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program at Holiday Valley, said director Bill Bredenberg.

Friday was VA recreation therapist Pam Kaznowski’s 14th year of coming to Holiday Valley for Veterans Adaptive Ski Day. She’s part of the Western New York VA Healthcare System. There were men and women veterans participating in the program on Friday.

“It’s part of the therapy program,” Kaznowski said. “We’re fortunate to have the vets from beginners to advanced skiers come out for this. This is very therapeutic. It’s a chance to enjoy this beautiful day without any barriers.”

The veterans attending Friday’s program ranged from the Vietnam War and Gulf Wars to the country’s latest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kasnowski said. 

“I feel very fortunate working with veterans. I love working with our vets,” she said.

Public affairs specialist Terry McGuire said the skiing helps make the veterans feel whole.

“They are doing things everyone else can do,” he said. “There are no barriers to reach their full potential.” 

Peter Heuser, a U.S. Navy veteran and employee at the Buffalo VA Hospital, who works in the prosthetics department, and Michelle Brownschidle, director of the department, were attending the adaptive skiing event.

Hueser, of North Tonawanda, said he used to ski, but hadn’t been on the slopes for 20 years. He’s part of a hockey team with the Wounded Warriors and the skiing sounded like a good idea. 

“I came so I could help spread the word to other vets,” he said.

His 9-year-old son is also learning to ski, “so this will be a good family activity. It will be a good time for us to be together.”

Brownschidle said she hadn’t skied in 20 years, either. She said she was interested in some of the adaptive techniques and equipment used in the program.

“It’s fun,” Bredenberg said. “We’ve got plenty of instructors here. There’s no pressure or expectations. It’s a beautiful day.”

Bredenberg, who has been volunteering for the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program for 18 years said it is very gratifying to see all the smiles on peoples faces the program has generated.

Safety, smiles and teaching people with a wide range of disabilities to ski is the goal, Bredenberg said. The impairment can be visual, developmental, paralysis or other disabilities.

The Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program has 45 volunteer instructors.

“They love to come out for our veterans day,” Bredenberg said. “Everyone wants to help someone who has served their country.