(KILLINGTON, WARREN and BOLTON, Vt. – April 20, 2010) - Maggie Burke, program coordinator at Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, the only organization in the state to offer daily, year-round sports programming to people with disabilities, has been invited to the White House Wednesday to take part in the President’s celebration of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Members of the two teams, as well as other special guests and political figures, will take to the South Lawn of the White House, to be greeted and congratulated by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
“I am stunned,” said a frantic Burke, who is in the midst of finding appropriate attire other than her ski gear to wear to the formal occasion. “This is an incredible honor. To be able represent all the people I work with on a daily basis-our clients and volunteers-and to spread the word as to how sports have such a positive effect on people with disabilities is so important to me. To be able to do this at the country’s highest level is incredible.”
According to Associated Press reports, the Obamas plan to promote the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign aimed at childhood obesity at the celebration as well.
“I couldn’t imagine a better diplomat to represent Vermont Adaptive at the White House,” said Executive Director Erin Fernandez. “She does an amazing job for us and I am thrilled that these rewarding opportunities have come her way. We are honored that she has been included in such a reception.”
As part of the organization’s goals, Vermont Adaptive advocates for physical fitness for everyone, including those with disabilities. According to Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics, USOC, less than five percent of kids with physical disabilities participate in physical fitness programs. Vermont Adaptive program coordinators aim to change that by creating awareness of the opportunities for kids with disabilities, whether they want to kayak or ski at a recreational or competitive level.
“As a program coordinator, I have seen the difference that participation in sports can make in the lives of not only the participants we work with, but in the lives of their families and the volunteers who work with them,” said Burke. “My ideas about what people with disabilities can accomplish have completely changed, and as I love telling people, there is never a dull day in adaptive sports, from working with a child with autism who wants to do nothing more than watch the chairlift, to getting a person with limb loss back out on skis. This program truly has some magical moments and it is amazing to get to witness them on a daily basis.”
In March, Burke was one of six coaches and program leaders selected by the U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, to attend the Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is the only year-round disabled sports program with daily programming in the state, which is committed to empowering individuals with disabilities. The organization promotes independence and further equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational opportunities including alpine skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports; kayaking, canoeing, sailing, rock climbing, horseback riding, and more. More than 400 volunteers serve clients from all over the world in three locations in Vermont – Pico Mountain at Killington; Sugarbush Resort in Warren; and Bolton Valley Resort in Bolton. For more information, visit www.vermontadaptive.org.