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Preview of the Hartford Ski Spectacular 2011

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JR MARTINEZ
AP

Wounded Warriors can dance! They can also ski, snowboard, and show they have "the right moves" for a variety of sports and other activities. The dance moves inspired millions when J.R. Martinez placed first in Dancing With the Stars. He has suffered grievously as a result of his war wounds. But his dramatic recovery, illustrated in his writing, public speaking, and dancing, has shown millions they can overcome obstacles and move on with their lives.

This is also the challenge to thousands of other wounded warriors in this country and around the world. If you want to join about 800 disabled persons, try to go to Breckenridge, CO from December 4 to 11. That is the annual Hartford Ski Spectacular. Of the 800 people expected to participate, 100 are disabled veterans. They are easy to spot -- they are often the fastest, fittest, and most gung-ho people on the mountain.

The event is put together by Kirk Bauer, a true war hero. He lost a leg in Vietnam, but refused to let that slow him down. He is the executive director of Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA.org). In the more recent events, most of the participants fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many have lost limbs; some have their sight or hearing impaired. Many have some type of brain injury or trauma as a result of their suffering. But, you would never realize it when you see them whiz down the beautiful, snow covered mountains.

The warriors help others who have also suffered. They inspire adaptive, or disabled skiers and snowboarders of all ages. They participate in programs around the world. There is a week of ski race training, so they can go on to compete in Paralympics games in many resorts. Some of the main competitions coming up are in Sugarbush, VT, Aspen, CO, Spain, and Russia.

One of the organizers, Mark McLaughlin, says there are sled hockey and wheelchair curling clinics this year at Breckenridge. This includes a game of wheelchair curling. There are also special classes in Alpine and Nordic Skiing, as well as snowboarding and biathlon.

Most of the participants stay at the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center. It is a terrific home base for this and other events, with ski in and ski out areas, for all participants. The event is sponsored by The Hartford, with other contributions appreciated. Such support gets tougher each year, as the economy slides. But these warriors deserve your support. It is one of the finest ways you can "thank them for their service."

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