Injured veterans take to the slopes through Tahoe nonprofit
Veterans injured in the line of duty were taken to new heights over the weekend through a military camp that puts wounded servicemen and women on the slopes.
The camp is put on by Achieve Tahoe, and Diamond Peak, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Northstar ski resorts each hosted the group of 17 veterans for a day of skiing and snowboarding.
The military camp, which is free, is a much-needed break for many of the veterans. They each get to bring a companion with them, as well, so many were skiing or snowboarding with their spouses or other loved ones.
"This is all military veterans, many of whom have been injured or wounded in combat," said Dave Littman, volunteer ski instructor with Achieve Tahoe. "It just gives you real perspective of what's important and how to be grateful everyday."
Littman is one of the 170 volunteer ski instructors that make up Achieve Tahoe.
"Skiing is a barrier-free environment," Littman said. "You get out here on the slopes with everyone else and you're enjoying it and having a good time."
Littman was the ski instructor for Larry Celano on Saturday while skiing at Diamond Peak resort. Celano was shot multiple times during the Panama Invasion. The wounds left him with minimal mobility in his legs, but he's not letting it slow him down.
"This year, I'm making it down without falling at all, so that's awesome," said Celano. "Last year's goal was to not get hurt, this year's goal was to get speed."
Celano and Littman lapped the chairlifts at Diamond Peak on Saturday, taking in the views and sunny sky while practicing turns on the snow. Celano says a simple "thank you" is often enough and he's overwhelmed with how generous Achieve Tahoe is with the camp.
"I joined the military to defend the constitution of the United States and that was my choice," said Celano. "A simple 'thank you' or a beer every once in a while -- that's all I need. What they did is beyond what I could've ever imagined. And I get choked up, ya know?"
Michael Hunter is the program director for Achieve Tahoe. He says they had a record-breaking season last year and hope to do the same this year.
The program is not just for injured veterans. The nonprofit based in Alpine Meadows is open almost daily during the winter season and helps get people with cognitive and physical disabilities on the slopes.
"We want to do more," Hunter said. "The opportunities for people with disabilities are always limited. Everywhere we go, there's always some kind of physical impediment or some reason why people can't participate. I just want to take an eraser and erase all those little spots off the map and make it possible for people. Anything that they want to do, they can go out and try and find success."
For more information on Achieve Tahoe, click here.