By Alicia Dziak

It’s that time of year again when the annual Penguin Paddle makes its way to Holiday Valley. On Saturday, Feb. 25, you too can be part of the fun in this fundraiser for HV’s Lounsbury Adaptive program.

The Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program (LASP) was founded by dedicated ski patrollers with the cooperation and support of Holiday Valley Ski Resort in September 1988.  The program was started to honor Bill Lounsbury, who was a member of the Holiday Valley Ski Patrol.  Bill lost a leg to cancer in 1982, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his love of skiing.  Bill taught himself to ski on one leg, and his courage and love of skiing was an inspiration to many.  After Bill lost his battle with cancer, the first pieces of adaptive equipment for the program were purchased using donations sent to the Holiday Valley Ski Patrol in Bill’s memory.

According to an article by Ed Racich previously published in the Ellicottville Times, it wasn’t long after that when the Penguin Paddle got its start:

“Emily Eckley, Karen Lowe and Connie Velotta …were great supporters of the ‘skiers’ lifestyle’ and also great supporters of the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program, better known these days as LASP…Emily, Karen and Connie, and their friends from Cleveland, Buffalo, and many other places, began a series of après ski parties in the spring of the year that evolved far beyond what any of them expected…Once everyone had imbibed, both food and drink, games would begin — the most anticipated being the Penguin Slides down Yodeler in front of the ski patrol building.

“In 1990, Emily Eckley, having realized the need for more formal organization, became the first chairman of the Penguin Paddle, as it had come to be known, and the event was literally off and running! Everyone wanted to paddle!

“So many people were becoming involved in the races that the group began selling bags. And so many more people were around to feed, that lunch grew to an area-wide cookout, offering not only chili, but hot dogs, sausages, chips, cookies and drinks, all for a modest donation! And all the donations went to support the LASP. Coffee cans were circulated during the festivities soliciting additional donations…Before you knew it, a Holiday Valley institution was born!”

Over the years, the LASP has grown to 40 instructors who work together to teach more than 250 lessons during the course of a single ski season.  These dedicated volunteer instructors are trained in adaptive ski methods, and more than half of the instructors are certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA).

The LASP aims to de-emphasize the disability. According to Holiday Valley’s web site, the program is described as offering “lessons to persons with virtually all disabilities, both physical and cognitive. Each student is instructed individually with full emphasis on his/her ability, rather than disability. Some of our more frequently encountered disabilities are spinal cord injuries, Downs Syndrome, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, autism and developmental delay. Results vary, however most are rather outstanding and many students gain new confidence to tackle other activities. The program runs from Dec. 26 through mid-March.”

The Penguin Paddle is the major annual fundraiser for Holiday Valley’s Lounsbury Adaptive Program. It is a day filled with wonderful auction items, delicious food and lots of laughs as people slip inside a garbage bag and slide on their bellies “penguin style” down the bottom of Yodeler slope.

Schedule of events is as follows:

9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Registration for the slide at the base of Yodeler $1

Raffle Tickets on sale all day at Yodeler (Holiday Valley Season Pass, $500 Southwest Airlines Travel Voucher and High performance skis from Dekdebruns Ski Shop)

10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Silent Auction at the base of Yodeler

11:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. Lunch in the tent at the base of Yodeler, $5 donation

12 p.m. Adaptive equipment demonstrations

1 p.m. Penguin Races begin – Helmets required

Don’t miss your chance to support a great cause while having a blast on the slopes of Holiday Valley. Stop by and end the break week with the Penguin Paddle!

For more info, visit www.holidayvalley.com.