By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Fred and Barbara Kohout are no strangers to a ski slope. They have enjoyed the winter sport for most of their lives, and have shared their love of the sport as certified ski instructors at various ski resorts for 20 years. They also have volunteered their time at a number of adaptive ski programs, and have been instrumental in the Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports (WVAS) Learn-to-Ski weekend in New Hampshire, which started three years ago.
Over the years, the Kohouts have worked with children with disabilities, as well as with wounded warriors through different organizations that partner with WVAS.
WVAS provides adaptive lessons with private instruction in alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to individuals with a wide range of disabilities.
The WVAS Learn-to-Ski weekend program received starter grants in 2016 and 2017 from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation. There is an application process and participants for this year have already been selected. Families with children with disabilities are encouraged to apply next year.
Fred is retired and said he and Barbara are in New Hampshire almost every weekend during the winter.
“It is good to give something back,” he said.
Barbara is the executive director and founder of Applied Behavioral Associates, LLC in Marlborough, which provides outpatient behavioral health and autism services. She understands many of the challenges the child and family may experience, including the opportunity to enjoy recreational and social events together.
“Every kid wants to be a part of something,” said Fred. “It’s amazing to see someone make such rapid progress who didn’t think they could do it.”
Fred and Barbara both feel the Learn-to-Ski weekends are a great thing not only for the kids, but also for their families.
In addition to providing two nights of lodging, lift tickets, lessons and a few meals, the weekend includes a family social.
Barbara said the social aspect is a big piece of the weekend as it connects families and builds relationships in an environment where there is an increased level of empathy and understanding of challenges.
The feedback from families who have participated in the program has been extremely positive and complimentary of the level of commitment of the staff working with the kids. The lessons are private, typically with a 2-to-1 instructor-to-child ratio.
“Everybody does have success in two days,” said Barbara. “The program is fun and works well. The teaching is a visual and kinesthetic approach.”
The words, “I learned to ski in one weekend,” have been repeated by participants. Many describe the weekend as amazing and write notes to share how the program made a difference for their family.
The program is set up for success and the Kohouts are proud of those successes.
“We have seen some students become volunteers,” said Fred.
There are various ways the program raises funds in order to continue its mission, including business sponsors. One of the biggest ways is the Ski-a-Thon weekend, which was held Feb. 3.
Additional information can be found at www.watervilleadaptive.com.