The Mountain Times

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AML dedication celebrates community

Photo by Polly Lynn
Killington Resort President Mike Solimano cuts a red ribbon symbolizing the official opening of the Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at Pico.

 

The debut of the Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at Pico was a celebration of completion, community and connections that brought the dreams and plans of many to fruition a month ahead of schedule.
In addition to the ribbon cutting festivities on Nov. 8, a gala open house and wine and cheese party followed on Saturday, Nov. 9, which was also well attended.
The $1.3 two-story building, which is now the beautiful and totally accessible new home to both programs, sports two floors of program rooms, offices, and an elevator. "Ooohs" and "Aaahs" could be heard as guests wandered from room to room and marveled over the décor and various spaces that provide for the variety of needs of the two programs.
As the ability to empower individuals with self-confidence and independence became recognized and valued, Vermont Adaptive grew into a year-round, statewide non-profit organization with three winter sites, including Pico Mountain which has also served as program headquarters since 1999.
Now those headquarters grace the first floor of the new lodge and feature a myriad of rooms, from the Gibney Garage that provides a large workshop and storage area to protect and maintain the adaptive equipment to the Chill Zone, a quiet room for those who need a reprieve from constant stimulation. There is a room for volunteers, offices for Vermont Adaptive administrative and program staff, a small library with educational resources, a family room, and a large program space that can accommodate wheelchairs, equipment, supplies, and instructors. The program room is known as Madi's Room, named after a little girl who loved to ski but passed away due to complications of hydrocephalous.
The second floor provides a home to the Pico Ski Education Foundation programs, and also sports a series of room, including a kitchen, the Karl and June Acker PSEF Board Room, and a large striking Great Room named in honor of Coach Greg McClallen. The McClallen Great Room was the festive scene of the celebration and will also serve the Pico Ski Club programs and accommodate dry-land training as well as speakers and programs. It can also be rented out for functions.
The new lodge, which was designed by NBF Architects of Rutland, is connected by second-floor decks to the Pico Ski Club building as well as to the Pico's Sports Shop building.
Connections and outreach
The lodge, which was named in honor of Pico's famous Olympian and daughter of Pico founders Brad and Janet Mead, was made possible by a tremendous fundraising effort and the response of no less than 68 businesses involved in its construction as well as its many generous donors.
Event Master of Ceremonies Tom Aicher, secretary of the Pico Ski Education Foundation, recognized the generosity of the many contractors who made the lodge possible, noting their tremendous show of support not only from in-kind gifts of labor or materials but also from leveraging their contacts to help the project out.
He also recognized Lynn Boynton, a Vermont Ski Education Foundation board member, for spearheading the fundraising. She was applauded as a fundraiser extraordinaire by all present.
Her efforts were supported by many others, including Kristen Kenosh who has three boys in the Pico Ski Club program. Kenosh reached out to philanthropist Phill Gross who got in touch with the Turtle Ridge Foundation, which then donated $100,000 to the adaptive program.
That donation was in keeping with the foundation's mission to support "adaptive and youth sports and athletic opportunities" and to give voice to organizations that seek to "empower the adaptive sports community." The first floor was named The Turtle Ridge Adaptive Center in honor of the support from the foundation, which was founded by Olympic Gold Medalist Bode Miller and his family in 2005.
Another person who helped the fundraising efforts was Sarah Will, who was born and raised in New York, and grew up racing in the Pico Ski Club program thanks to her family having a vacation home at Pico. Then she raced for Green Mountain College and was ranked 20th in the nation. Post graduation, she was enjoying first tracks in powder in Colorado when she had a devastating accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down in 1988. Noting she trained and raced "downhill because I like to go fast," Will said that a year after her accident she learned to mono ski and the year after that was racing again.
She also participated in the Vermont Adaptive at Mount Ascutney. At that time, the program was in its infancy, having begun in 1987.­­­
 "I haven't missed a season since I was four," Will told The Mountain Times, emphasizing that she was "inspired by others. I worked hard and watched those who were better," she said, noting how empowering mentors and adaptive programs are.
"For me, I didn't know how to be part of the world of adaptive anything," she said of her reaction to the accident. "I saw how important they are to independence," she added.
Will went on to the U.S. Disabled Ski Team for 11 years, winning 12 Paralympic Golds and one Silver in Alpine skiing. "The Paralympics are held one week after the Olympics at the same venue," she explained, adding, "We had our downhill at Lillehammer on the Men's GS hill."
Having traveled throughout the country, Will said that "adaptive programs operate wherever there is space - out of closets, tight spaces," and that very few mountains have buildings that offer facilities like those now available at Pico. "It's about much more than skiing - skiing makes you positive and it's empowering for the participant - and their families," she added, noting how important the new spaces like the Quiet Room and Family Room are to families as well.
The Sarah Will Access for All Elevator was named in Sarah's honor and sports a plaque noting the financial support of Verlene and Bruce Belden, Pico's third owner/operators that makes the elevator and its foyer area possible.
The upstairs PSEF elevator foyer was named in honor of Ann Walters Thompson, who grew up ski racing at Pico and Killington. After a life-changing injury also left her in a wheelchair, she too became a world-class competitor and Paralympian in several sports. She is a familiar monoskier at Pico today. The Killington-Pico Competitors Trust (Ann, Brian and Cassidy Thompson, Chuck and Betty Hughes) supported the foyer through their donations.
From dream to reality
Emcee Aicher also explained how the idea for the unique building came about. Asked by George Potter, a previous mountain manager at Pico, about how the two programs were doing, Aicher mentioned that both were flourishing but in need of more space.
Potter suggested that he call Erin Fernandez, Vermont Adaptive's Director, and the two organizations decided to join forces to build a facility to serve the respective programs. Cristina Calcagni got Lynn Boynton passionate about adaptive sports, which proved pivotal for the fundraising effort then led.
However, they lacked a site and didn't own any land, but they saw a space that would fit their needs nicely. So along with Kip Dalury, they sat with Chris Nyberg, formerly president and GM of Killington and Pico and now Powdr Resorts' president, made their case, and answered his questions.
Aicher credited Fernandez with doing such a good job that Nyberg responded, "Let's go see your site." The donation of the land made the project possible, Aicher noted.
Those pivotal moments along with contractors willing to wait for payments and the donors made the project a success, he noted, saying that when a need arose for a required fire suppression/sprinkler system, John Calcagni (First Line Security) came through.
In addressing the group, Sarah Will noted that as a young racer she had never imagined getting hurt. But since that time her confidence and sense of empowerment returned through the encouragement of adaptive skiing and particularly the inspiration that monoskier Ann Walters provided her when she got hurt, she said, ending on a note of gratitude to "all who support the cause."
Current fundraising
With the surprise donation by Powdr Corp. of $50,000 at the ribbon cutting, $100,000 remains to be raised.
Vermont Adaptive Executive Director Erin Fernandez said that Dave Groom, a father of an UVM student who is an adaptive volunteer, had already donated funds for the Quiet Room but after the ribbon cutting, he offered further help by way of matching every donation dollar for dollar up to $20,000 for the next 30 days or so.
In addition, a local businessman has pledged to donate $250 for each new Subaru purchased between Nov. 21 and Jan. 2, 2014 at Kinney Subaru in Rutland.
"It's part of the annual Subaru Share the Love campaign, and we chose to donate locally," noted Subaru salesman and Rutland City Representative for District 5-2 Larry Cupoli who attended the celebration.
Anyone who would like to help complete this community fundraiser with a donation can do so by calling 802-353-8129, by emailing director@vermontadaptive.org, or by visiting www.vermontadaptive.org.