A local charitable organization is celebrating 50 years of enabling kids and youth with disabilities to discover their confidence and physical potential through the freedom of snow sports.
Ontario Track3 Adaptive Sport Association is a non-profit charitable organization that provides ski and snowboard instruction, care and equipment to children with cognitive and physical disabilities.
The goal of the organization is to help children discover their own abilities through the joys of snow sports.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy winter snow sports,” said Paul Rogers, president of Track3. “Don’t leave kids behind.”
Founded in 1972 as the Ontario Track3 Ski Association for the Disabled, the idea was inspired, in part, when one of the founders witnessed a downhill ski program for amputees in Colorado.
A team of local volunteers got together to introduce similar programming along the escarpment at Georgian Peaks and Osler Ski Club.
“It’s the power of an inspiring idea,” said Rogers. “Bringing it back, making a commitment to your local community.”
The term “Track3” came from the impression left on the snow by a single-leg skier and their two hand-held outriggers. After 50 years of programming, the association has grown and changed substantially, so they formally changed their name to reflect the continuation of their mission: to provide quality and inclusive adaptive sports programs for children and youth across Ontario.
Track3 has expanded its programs to add adaptive snowboarding and now operates out of various ski hills in the province, including Milton, Huntsville, North York and Collingwood.
Their biggest cohort operates out of Craigleith Ski Club, offering full-day programming every Saturday and Sunday throughout the winter.
“The local story for us is important,” he said. “It’s hard to see somebody in a sit ski and not feel inspired by that.”
Plus, the majority of the association’s volunteers are also in this area. As a volunteer-powered organization, Track3 is always looking for more people to help out.
“If we get more volunteers, then we can get more people on the hill,” he said. “The best phone call we can make is to a parent saying we have a spot for their child.”
Rogers himself has been involved with the association for over two decades, and has served as president for the past four. He initially got involved after his wife sustained an injury and had to become a sit-down skier and quickly got “sucked in” by the quality of the community and the children that they work with.
“These things always come down to people,” he said.
At anywhere between $3,000 to $12,000 for a sit ski, and the (literally) steep learning curve involved with downhill adaptive skiing, the barrier of entry to the sport is high, so fundraising plays a big part in it as well.
According to Rogers, the organization simply cannot accommodate the mass number of students interested without the support they receive through fundraising. Track3 holds a number of annual events throughout the season.
Their annual Friends and Family Snow Day will take place on Feb. 10 at Craigleith Ski Club. Tickets are on sale now and include a full day of events and activities, as well as raffle prizes, a live and silent auction, and a lift ticket to one of the area’s private ski clubs.
After having to cancel the event for the past two years due to closures caused by COVID-19, the association is excited to bring it back this year.
“Fundraising events like our upcoming Friends and Family SNOW DAY, allow us to welcome more children to benefit from our programs each season,” Rogers said.
For more information or to register for Snow Day, visit Ontario Track3 Adaptive Sport Association.