CORTLAND – By the end of his third day at Greek Peak, Matthew Wise had graduated from the bunny slope and was begging for a chance to try one of the ski resort’s black diamond runs. That’s impressive progress for any novice skier, but consider this – Wise is an amputee.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, (but) never had the opportunity,” said Wise, who lost his left leg above the knee when he was 11 as a result of cancer.
Last week, the Minneapolis man realized his dream of learning to ski at Winter Challenge Week, held the last week of January each year at Greek Peak’s Adaptive Snowsports Center. The non-profit, volunteer-run program is a week-long event which helps blind, paraplegic and amputee adults and wounded veterans learn to ski or snowboard.
The program, now in its seventh year, is the brainchild of Robyn King of Norwich and “One Legged” John Solowiej. More than 40 individuals have been served since its inception, at no charge to participants.
“We could not do this without our sponsors,” said King, explaining that individuals and business donors enable the program to continue. Their financial support covers the roughly $1,000 cost for each participant, and helps purchase and maintain the necessary adaptive equipment.
According to Solowiej, many of those sponsors are from Chenango County. This year, those generous donors included the Flanagan Foundation, the Kochersbergers, the Almeter family, Electron Coil, Pet Street Station, the Rowe family, Service Pharmacy, the Norwich American Legion and the Norwich Rotary.
“Everybody here is extremely grateful (for their generosity),” he said.
The Kryger family, Greek Peak Mountain Resort, Triple-Cities Ski Club, the Wounded Warrior Project, Hangar Prosthetics, BAE Systems, Chestnut Rehabilitation Services, ISD and Med Spar are also sponsors. A complete list appears on the Winter Challenge website, www.winterchallenge.org.