Letter: Volunteers embody STARS for clients
I am a person with a disability who has been able to take at least eight ski trips to Steamboat Springs over the last 10 years. I am totally blind and have skied at least 32 days with STARS volunteers. For all but one of my trips, either friends or my wife accompanied me.
I am writing to support the volunteers that have provided Blind Guide services to me through STARS. Over the past 29 years, I have skied at least 300 days with guides provided by disabled sports operations at eight different ski resorts in Colorado, Utah, California and Canada.
I have had good experiences and bad. I have seen disabled ski programs flourish for years and then wither, and I have seen multiple reorganizations and leadership changes. Many of these changes have negatively affected the experience, quality, and yes, safety of the guides available to me. So far, my experiences with STARS have been universally positive.
I cannot overemphasize the positive impact skiing has had on my self confidence and self image. After being blinded, skiing helped elevate my expectations for the remainder of my life and helped convince my family, friends and employers that if I could ski, I could do anything. I got on skis before I went back to work.
To the disabled clients of STARS, the volunteer guides and instructors are the program. In the abstract, these volunteers may seem generic, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Volunteers and their clients form close relationships, even friendships, and clients often ask for the same, familiar volunteer year after year. Having skied together previously, the task of getting out on the slope is much more efficient. The trust and familiarity that I must have with a guide are already there, and we can just get skiing.
As the various STARS stakeholders consider the future, I hope all can remember that the volunteers embody the STARS organization to your clients. I encourage maintaining longstanding volunteer relationships to be one of the objectives as STARS works through this transition and for leadership to listen to and value the recommendations of your volunteers.
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