Disabled veterans hit the slopes with STRIDE

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Photo Gallery | STRIDE Adaptive Sports honors disabled war veterans

This story has been modified to clarify that STRIDE is not affiliated with the national Wounded Warriors Project organization.

HANCOCK — James Hogan wasn't going to fib.

"Before I moved up here three years ago to be closer to my wife's family, I never lived north of Virginia," he said on Sunday. "When it began to snow that first year, I was like, 'This is awful.' I had to shovel it, that's all I knew."

Hogan, 44, is a Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm and the Afghanistan conflict. He has suffered injuries to his back and legs. He and his family live in Latham, N.Y.

Hogan was one of 14 local veterans who took part in a skiing event on Sunday hosted by STRIDE, a New York-based adaptive sports nonprofit that provides sports and recreation lessons to special needs children and disabled individuals. STRIDE, in conjunction with several other sponsors, hosted the STRIDE veterans and their families to a skiing weekend at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort.

The event was free to the group, which numbered about 38 in total, according to Mary Ellen Whitney, CEO and founder of STRIDE.

STRIDE has been in existence for 30 years, Whitney said. It was the 11th year the group has held the event for the wounded war veterans, she said.

STRIDE serves more than 1,000 veterans, she said. There are about 350 volunteers in the organization, said Whitney.

One of the volunteers, Elizabeth Gross of Hyde Park, N.Y., said she had an enjoyable morning teaching the veterans and their families to ski.

"I love it," she said. "It's the best part of my week. I look forward to it every weekend."

Hogan brought his three pretty cool kids to Jiminy for their first skiing lessons. That would be Caleigh, 9, Benjamin, 7 and Sebastian, 3.

Benjamin and Sebastian were polite to the reporter and agreed they had a great time. Caleigh?

"It was tiring," she said. "I fell. I wiped out big time."

But, she admitted, she will try again.

Hogan, the snow-hater prior to this weekend, is now officially hooked.

"This was great" he said. "I'm going to buy skis for my wife and kids and we're going again, that's for sure. Between the support of my STRIDE family and the natural beauty of this place, I understand now.

"It's just great," he mused. "To discover that there's a reason for snow."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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