This week saw the return of the Nipissing Trackers to the Laurentian Ski Hill in North Bay.
The Trackers, run by volunteers, dedicate 8 Sundays each year to provide a program for special needs children, allowing them to participate in the sport of downhill skiing at the facility.
The instructors, all from various backgrounds, spend the first two Sundays learning how to use the harnesses, poles, and buy skies that are essential to making the program work.
Using diverse levels of training, the instructors are passionate about encouraging all people to enjoy the sport of skiing.
The program brings children with physical or developmental disabilities or both to the ski hill for an hour and a half, with specialized individual instruction being provided by the volunteer instructors.
The goal of the program is to be safe, have fun and if one should learn additional ski skills, it's a bonus.
Sponsored by the Nipissing Association for disabled youth (NADY), the previous year saw 300 passes given out over the eight weekends, with insurance being graciously provided.
This year has seen continued interest, with 21 instructors and 39 students registering to participate.
Kay-Sea Taylor, a co-coordinator for the Trackers, says that Sunday was a great day for the event and indicated that this year's program should be bigger and better than any other is as the program is seeing interest and growth.
Taylor says the program is beneficial in that it can help with boosting a child's morale and build up their confidence.
“It gets them out more into the community and gets them doing things with their peers,” says Taylor.
“It’s also really good for their families because they’re invited to come ski with them and it’s something that they can do that they might not be able to do,” Taylor says.
Mayor Al McDonald joined in on the fun, putting on his skis and hitting the slopes as a way of showing his support for this innovative and active community group.
“It’s an opportunity for special needs kids to get instruction and to enjoy the ski hill, although I think the kids are going to hold me up rather than me holding them up,” McDonald says.
For more information on the Nipissing Trackers, please contact Rick Taylor at 705-472-7872 or Kay-Sea Taylor at 705-303-8875.