It seems that the only time something good for the country can be adopted by Congress lately is when it’s so obviously good that a Republican and a Democrat come together to sponsor the
idea. Then their respective parties have a more difficult time spinning and manipulating whatever it is and adopting a stance automatically for or against it, no matter the merit or lack
thereof, but simply based on whoever proposed it.
Why can’t this happen more often? Well, at least this excellent bit of legislation can be used a model and maybe help to create a pathway which should be followed much more often by Congress.
Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Begich (D-AK) joined forces to extend the US Paralympic Integrated Adaptive Sports Program through 2018, with Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) sponsoring the House version of the bill. The US Olympic Committee is partnering with the Department of Veteran Affairs and local organizations to create adaptive sports programs for wounded and disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces. Wow! An undeniablly excellent idea gets through Congress!!
There have been over 40,000 soldiers wounded since 2003 and it has thankfully become a matter of national consensus to not only care for them physically but also to recognize their emotional wounds. The healing power of sport is unparalleled and it is most gratifying to see the US Congress recognize the value of Adaptive Sports Programs on local levels throughout the country and join together across party lines to vote for extending their financial support. Not only that, but to use the expertise of the US Olympic Committee: addtional kudos to Congress on including another obvious good choice.
Here in Sun Valley, a sports mecca for athletes, we have many sports programs for all ages and see quite a few Olympic hopefuls come here to train. We have around 30 Olympians living
in our healthy mountain air, mostly winter but a handful of summer Olympians too. We have elite snowboarders, ice skaters, both alpine and nordic skiers, and we have most notably
Paralympian Muffy Davis. Muffy became disabled in a skiing accident while training for the US Olympic Ski Team, and didn’t let the fact that she ended up in a wheelchair stop her from
competing for her country, instead winning multiple golds in the Paralympics.
Sun Valley Adaptive Sports works with Higher Ground, two excellent examples of programs benefiting both future Paralympians and wounded vets. Higher Ground organizes camps for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and their significant others. Higher Ground's winter sports camps for alpine and nordic skiing, skating, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, are held in Sun Valley, in conjunction with Sun Valley Adaptive Sports.
Our good friend and local artist Barbara Kline has had a young Marine staying in her home who is training for the Paralympics in Sochi. He is missing his entire right arm, and is training
in Sun Valley for the Biathlon: the incredibly difficult X-country ski combined with shooting event. Besides being an elite athlete, a charming and well mannered young man, a Marine and as
Barbara says the most TIDY person who’s ever stayed with her, he has a beautiful shepard puppy who is also in training: as a service dog. We have no doubt undermined Yogi’s training,
hopefully only temporarily, by letting him out of his kennel for unscheduled, wild and rambunctious play with the other under-two's in our joint pack.
This exceptional young man truly deserves all the support and help in his endeavor to make the US Paralympic Team for Sochi in 2014. All our veterans, both physically and emotionally wounded, deserve an opportunity to partake in these programs, along with their partners and caregivers. As a nation we need to continue to recognize their contribution and to continue to recognize the power of sport and the role it can play in healing.