Abby Costello smiles for the camera with a veteran she worked with at the clinic.
Abby Costello was one of nineteen kinesiology students who volunteered at the thirty-first National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.


Miracles on a Mountainside

Miracles on a Mountainside is more than a tagline for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. “My life was completely changed,” said exercise science student and first-time volunteer Abby Costello. “Before I went I wasn’t sure what to expect but now I’m extremely thankful to have be a part of this opportunity.”

Nineteen kinesiology students joined more than 500 other volunteers and nearly 355 participants in Snowmass for the annual clinic. The winter sports clinic is six days of utilizing adapted physical activities as well as educational sessions to rehabilitate disabled veterans.

Students worked closely with veterans ranging from 22- to 82-years-old who served in the Army, Navy, Marines and other military branches. Veterans were able to participate in a variety of adaptive sports including skiing, snowmobiling and sled hockey over the few snowy days.

“One veteran whose quote I wrote down said, ‘This has been an opportunity to realize that you’re not done, you’re not over and you’re not broken’,” Costello said. “That really stuck with me.”

Clinic organizers assigned the kinesiology students to a specific area to work for the week. They worked with veterans that had traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, neurological conditions and other injuries, said Professor of Kinesiology Jill Cordova, PhD, Costello’s advisor who encouraged her to apply to the clinic.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students to get first-hand experience working with various disabilities as well as an opportunity for them to give back to our nations’ finest,” said Teresa Parks, National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic director. “Veterans in attendance love the opportunity to share their life experiences with young college students just getting ready to make their way into the working world, and I think college students love the unique experience to listen and learn.”

Costello had many take-aways from this experience including an even stronger drive to pursue graduate school to become a physical therapist.

“I look back on that experience and realize anything is possible,” Costello said.

CMU alumnus Sandy Trombetta originally developed the idea for this clinic and began bringing VA patients to Powderhorn Mountain Resort in the early 1980s to participate in disabled ski programs. Over the last thirty-one years, the clinic has grown from 90 participants to more than 350 and now also provides learning opportunities and life changing experiences for CMU students.   

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