State News

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports presents 2022 volunteers of the year and Kellen Sams leadership award winners

To be a volunteer at Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is to embody tireless dedication, strong leadership and a big heart. To strive to empower athletes with disabilities is reflected through every highly-trained instructor. The most outstanding volunteers in 2022 were Alexander (Sandy) Kish, Dave Morse and Ellen Riley.

Named 2022 Volunteers of the Year, these three recipients embody the traits and legacy of Jim Hutchinson, a Vermont Adaptive volunteer who left a tradition of empowering people of all abilities through sports and recreation as well as a commitment toward supporting the organization. 

In addition, Vermont Adaptive selected Kaitlyn Fowle to receive the 2022 Kellen Sams Memorial Leadership Award.

“For 2022, just like any other year, we recognize those who go above and beyond our expectations” said Erin Fernandez, executive director at Vermont Adaptive “This year, we couldn’t decide on one volunteer of the year so we chose three. We are so grateful and so proud to have a strong organization and even better individuals that make it all happen.”

When Sandy Kish isn’t found on the slopes of Bolton Valley, he’s tirelessly supporting the Pushback Program for Parkinson’s as a partner. You can always find a beaming smile while instructing, and he is usually the fan favorite for families and participants. While he shows exemplary reliability, his dedication to Vermont Adaptive does not go unnoticed.

Dave Morse has been a part of the Vermont Adaptive community since 2003 and shows his big smile and personality while instructing winter and summer programs, as well as dedicating his time to annual events. Often the last one standing at the Annual Vermont Adaptive Charity Challenge, he is always quick to help out wherever he’s needed. His work and passions are reflected in his work everyday. 

Ellen Riley, also a parent to a participant at Vermont Adaptive, spends her time volunteering at special events, bike rides, paddling days, Sugarbush trips, ski lessons, and many more adventures. Her dynamic and well-rounded personality shines through her work either assisting Sunday ski and ride race teams or Thursday school groups. Her passion for teaching young kids to ski and staying active is reflected through her time with Vermont Adaptive. 

“This year’s Kellen Sams Leadership Award recipient is unlike any other,” said Norm Staunton, director of operations at Vermont Adaptive. “Kaitlyn is not a volunteer, staff, or intern at Vermont Adaptive. In that sense, she is an unusual nominee for the award. She has donated her time to teach multiple courses, training, and certifications for Vermont Adaptive, at no charge and all passion.”

Kaitlyn Fowle can be easily recognized at Bolton Valley, as she works as the Patrol Director and ensures that Vermont Adaptive is included in all of the ski resort events. She has co-organized training, made time available to her staff to attend Vermont Adaptive training, has attended Vermont Adaptive training herself, and has pursued trainer status in new course offerings at the organization’s request. Fowle is a trainer for the National Ski Patrol, American Heart Association, Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (wilderness medicine), American Canoe Association, Stop the Bleed, and others. She is also a professional caliber alpine skier, sea kayaker, stand up paddleboarder, tele skier, and high angle rescuer.

Kellen Sams was a great outdoor spirit, 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, Kellen 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.

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