Despite mental retardation, the little girl was active. When she successfully learned to snow ski, her mother decided there were probably other people with disabilities who could improve the quality of their lives by focusing not on what they couldn't do, but on what they could.
That was the birth of the Park West Special Ski Foundation 11 years ago. At that time, there were very few participants.But one young man, Paul Hill from Park City, was fascinated by the project and told his parents about it. When he died in an accident in 1982, the family asked that donations be made to the foundation.
The ski foundation became the Paul Hill Adaptive Sports Association, which teaches people with disabilities - including blindness, deafness, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, para- and quadraplegia and any other handicap - how to use sports equipment safely so that they can continue to participate in outdoor activities. The original emphasis on snow skiing has been expanded to include water skiing and horseback riding.
"We don't just take the person and give him a lesson," said Teri Banks, director. "We tell people to bring their families. We'll teach the family members what they need to do to help out, so that when everyone's comfortable with the sport, they can go out themselves and just do it.
"For instance, with water skiing we show the family how to get you out in deep water, how to hook up the skis. That way we aren't needed anymore. We want people to be mainstreamed, not segregated, and showing people how to participate in sports with their own families is a great way to do that," she said.
After the disabled person has become adept, he can call the association and arrange to use its equipment.
The Paul Hill Adaptive Sports Association will hold a fund-raiser at Solitude Oct. 15. The "Snow God Kick-off Party" will feature a ski swap, live music and door prizes donated by local businesses. The association is also holding a membership drive. The $15 annual membership fee covers the cost of insurance, low-cost training and discount passes.
"We've never charged before," Banks said, "but this is the real world. We are a non-profit organization, and it's still a great deal. We just have to cover the price of insurance and expenses. But we would never turn someone away because they absolutely couldn't pay."
For more information, or to volunteer to help with clinics, call Teri at 943-7069 or Donald at 487-9497.