NEW HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Flanked by three skilled friends, Brinley Oberempt preps for a trip down the trail.
“We like to call them athletes and we’re coaches,” said Karen Cook, executive director of the Summit Adaptive Sports program.
Though the 17-year-old with a genetic disorder is non-verbal, Brinley’s joy is palpable.
“Great feedback, the giggles down the mountain give it away,” said her mom, Brandi Oberempt.
It’s all because of the adaptive sports program at Ski Sundown, the only one of its kind in the state.
“It’s all ages, all abilities,” said Cook.
It was recently taken over by a local group, as opposed to the former national organization.
“In being local, it helps us with recruiting more volunteers, recruiting more participants and it helped us recruiting more funding,” Cook noted.
In fact, Cook is the mom of a son with autism, and said they’ve recently raised $80,000. It is in part to fund incredible sit-ski chairs that allow those with mobility issues to steer and enjoy the sensation of skiing.
“A piece of equipment like this costs about $8,000,” said Cook. “The lessons are one-on-one but sometimes two, three coaches, whatever their needs are.”
Some athletes need that special equipment. Others like Brynn, just need skis or a snowboard. She’s catching-onto boarding right away.
“Fell in love with it immediately and now she’s been five times and I hope someday she can become a coach with us,” said Cook.
And that’s exactly what this experience is all about. It’s about improving participants’ social skills, sense of independence, self-esteem, and more.
“Their mental health, they’re getting outside in the winter, they’re not stuck inside,” Cook said.
Brinley’s mom said this experience has been a game-changer for the whole family.
“It’s the most amazing program because I can take all three children to one spot and she can do exactly what her siblings are able to do,” Oberempt stated.
It’s an opportunity on the slope to pursue a passion, to soar, and feel free.
“It’s wonderful, can’t ask for anything more than to see her doing what her friends and family are doing,” said Oberempt.
Summit Adaptive Sports will be offering hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and disc golf to folks of all abilities during the warmer months, as well.
Click here for more information.