A lifelong pursuit of happiness.

By Pat Addabbo, Executive Director

On Saturday and Sunday March 9th & 10th, 2024, I had the honor of supporting two of my most memorable experiences ever with OAS and in all of my 16 years of working in adaptive sports.

On Saturday, OAS assisted ALS Northwest at Mt Hood Meadows for their annual fundraiser “Ski to Defeat ALS.” The OAS team has travelled to Mt Hood once each year for the past decade to provide ski experiences for individuals living at advanced stages of the disease. Like our own Ski For All, hundreds of individuals sign up to celebrate the joy of skiing while raising funds which go towards researching a cure for ALS. This year, a team of eight OAS instructors and volunteers supported six individuals living with ALS to access the slopes and participate in the event.

I skied most of the day with Bruce (pictured) and was supported OAS volunteer (& Board Treasurer!) Larry. As we ascended the chairlift before each run, Larry and I were in awe listening to Bruce’s stories of skiing, climbing, and other memories of time spent in the mountains with his family and friends. We learned that this day marked Bruce’s 67th year on skis! Bruce spent 40 years as a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain in Washington, climbed Mt St Helens twice before its eruption in 1980, and met his wife of 45 years through Crystal patrol who also joined us on the slopes that day.

Bruce has led a full and impactful life centered around snow. Larry and I were humbled to share this day with him soaking up full alpine conditions where we’d descend one run in whiteout conditions but the next have the sun peeking through the clouds. We took deep breaths of cold mountain air and took time to simply enjoy our presence in such beauty. Bruce was later that day awarded the prestigious Noble Spirit Award, given out annually by ALS Northwest in memory of the amazing Fred Noble, an award which recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond to bring awareness to the cause of supporting those living with the disease.

On Sunday, OAS headed to Timberline Ski Area where we partnered with Shriners Hospital to support two young athletes with amputations or limb differences. Of these two lessons, I had the absolute joy and honor of working with M, a seven year old with a congenital limb difference. In contrast to Bruce’s decades of experience, Sunday marked M’s first day ever on skis. Their families however share a deep love for the sport as M’s includes three older siblings and two amazing parents all of whom ski and are excited to introduce her to these joyous experiences.

After navigating some initial trepidation in the lodge where we hopped around in boots and felt the weight of skis on our feet, we agreed to venture out onto the snow and to brave the late winter storm at 6,000′ above sea level. We walked and crawled to the edge of a gentle slope where with the assistance of a walker on skis, M stood tall and steadied herself for her first ever run. As gravity took over, M bravely executed her first run to perfection, cheers erupted and the joy was palpable. After that first run we heard the three greatest words you can hope for, “let’s go again!”

The morning continued to unfold and eventually we moved to the magic carpet, making more than 10 runs with intermittent snowball fights. I think it is safe to say M was already a skier, she simply needed the chance to unleash it!

Later, while resting in the lodge and celebrating another successful day, Larry and I were chatting with M’s father and recounting our experience with Bruce the day prior to which M’s father added, “well I think this might have been the start of year 1 of 67 for M!”

From connecting with family, friends and nature on the trailing end of an incredible life on snow to introducing a young athlete to these joys with so much life ahead of her, it was an emotional, joyous, if not bittersweet weekend. One that I am so grateful to help create and which all of us at OAS will continue to work on, aiming towards our vision of a day when every person with a disability has access to the benefits of outdoor recreation.