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An unforgettable experience

My husband and I moved to Aspen to enjoy the exceptional qualities of the Roaring Fork Valley. Last week, an opportunity presented itself for us to make a contribution to the wonderful mix of offerings available here, and I volunteered to help with the winter program of the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf.

Having never met anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing, I was a little nervous about being able to communicate enough to be of service. When I arrived at the meeting room in Snowmass Village I found 30 very eager teenagers – deaf and hard of hearing students from a number of states – ready to hit the slopes. I could feel tremendous energy in the midst of a startling quietness.

One instructor and one interpreter were assigned to each group, along with a volunteer guide like me. Expecting to be wedging for three days, I was delighted when they included me with the upper-level teenage boys.

They wanted to go fast, jump or zip down mogul runs. That was fine with John Moore, the group volunteer instructor, as long as they could demonstrate sufficient control and ability. The Big Burn was the proving grounds, and Reidar’s was the reward. They were excellent skiers.

While riding up the chairlift, I pondered the fact that they could not hear the wind in the trees and that their perception of the mountain and of the whole world is so different than mine.

I was amazed at the talent of each teenager not only to be fluent in sign language but, for some, to be able to read our lips and even to vocalize. One thing they could all do very well was to laugh!

When the boys learned from the interpreter which way we were going down at the end of the day, there was a tremendous spontaneous roar of that laughter. The chosen run was Naked Lady!

The last day was very exciting and somewhat stressful for the students as the afternoon included a race down the Nastar course where the winners in various categories were awarded scholarships for Deaf Camp summer sessions.

The teenage boys needed a lot of fun activities to keep them focused and relaxed throughout the morning, and Smitty, our volunteer instructor for that day, knew exactly what to do. I will remember that halfpipe for a long time!

It is an incredible experience to be part of such an event. There is nothing money can buy that can come close to having a young person tap you on the shoulder and mouth the words, “Thank you!” The Deaf Camp winter program was a wonderful introduction to volunteer service in Aspen.

Nicole Denholm, Trustee

ACSD Board


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