Officials at Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, a nationally recognized nonprofit providing sports and recreation year-round to people with disabilities, announced Jan. 26 that Molly Tobin, program coordinator for the organization, has been awarded the 2021 Kellen Sams Memorial Leadership Award.
“We are thrilled that Molly is this year’s recipient of the award,” said Christine Parsons, Sams’ mother and creator of this award in her son’s memory. “Kellen’s name is linked to an amazing adaptive sports program, which does the type of work that resonated with his heart. Kellen’s dedication to gaining skills, his love of challenging oneself and his passion for showing others the joy of ‘just being out there’ continues as his fund supports professional development of Vermont Adaptive staff, interns and volunteers.”
Kellen Sams was a teacher and avid adventurer. But most importantly, he was a compassionate friend to all he met. Tragically, despite preparedness, the highest safety measures, and years of training and experience, Sams lost his life in an avalanche in February of 2010 while backcountry skiing the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
In honor of Sams’ commitment to outdoor experiential education of the highest quality, the Kellen Sams Memorial Leadership Award was established. The purpose of the award is to further Sams’ legacy by providing recognition for those Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports’ staff, volunteers and interns who show the greatest commitment to professional development and leadership within the organization.
“It was a surprise and an honor to receive the Kellen Sams Memorial Leadership Award,” said Tobin. “I have always sought out opportunities to continue to learn and expand my knowledge in outdoor education and adventure sports disciplines for both personal and professional use. I take pride in being able to share my passions for outdoor recreation with others and am very proud to receive recognition in memory of a great outdoorsman, teacher and adventurer.”
Tobin began volunteering at Vermont Adaptive in 2018 and then interned for both Burlington summer programming and Pushback/CORE Connections. In the Fall of 2020 she returned as the Bolton Valley/Chittenden County/Burlington region program coordinator.
“Molly dove in headfirst, taking charge of programs in order to continue to provide services to those that we could,” said Erin Fernandez, executive director of Vermont Adaptive, of Tobin’s willingness to jump right in during the beginning of the pandemic. “She didn’t flinch when asked to take on the responsibility of administering the new online volunteer off-snow training portal, which was brand new to the organization due to the pandemic. She did an amazing job, was efficient and ‘stepped up’ without any questions – taking on a role that was new to her.”
Tobin has experience guiding and teaching wilderness leadership courses and holds Wilderness First Responder, CPR and First Aid, ACA Level 1 & 2 kayak touring certification, ACA SUP Level 1, ACA Advanced Communications, PSIA Adaptive Level 1, and is an expert road and mountain biker.
“Molly goes above and beyond leading her programs at Bolton Valley and especially in Burlington,” said Fernandez. “Her programs are busier than ever, and yet she still goes the extra mile. She takes initiative at trying new things and is clearly a young leader with loads of potential in her future.”
Sams committed his life to further outdoor and experiential education for all regardless of their abilities. His adventures included work experiences with Outward Bound, a summer chasing rattlesnakes and black bears off the Appalachian Trail, and honing his gentle teaching skills at the adaptive ski program at Crested Butte Resort in Colorado. He was proud to have completed New Hampshire’s “Presi Traverse” in a day. Through all these experiences and his desire to strive for the best in his personal and professional life, he demonstrated his competence as an outdoor educator and his dedication as a friend.
To learn more about Kellen Sams and the scholarship and leadership programs at Vermont Adaptive, visit vermontadaptive.org/get-involved/kellensams/