Hello there sunshine! Welcome to today’s post!
I’d like to talk about the greatest adventure I’ve ever been privileged enough to have. Working on FIRE has been a journey for me, both physically and mentally. Looking back on it now, it all kind of seems unreal. To be honest, I can’t even believe that I’m the same person I was when this crazy idea to start a sit ski program popped into my head. I’ve discovered a lot about myself throughout this process, grew more than I thought possible, and now I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without FIRE.
I think the process of discovery began the first time I went skiing. I still don’t really know what made me want to go skiing actually… None of my family are skiers, and at the time I had a strong dislike for anything that had to do with winter. I think it had something to do with the news I received on my spine. I felt the need to do something different. Something that could make me forget my hardships for a while. Something to even make me forget I was disabled. I didn’t think skiing could do all that though… I was happy to be wrong in this case! I came away from my first ski adventure with an indescribable joy. Up there, on top of a mountain, the world seems tiny in comparison. I felt like I could do anything. I felt so free, almost as if I could fly. And I surprised myself through the experience. Things that would usually scare me senseless I ended up being thrilled with. I think this was the first step to discovering something within myself that I didn't know was there. I remember coming home from Kimberley, sitting down at my table, and playing everything over and over again in my mind. And that's when it happened. That little idea popped in my head, which in retrospect was the craziest idea I've ever had to date. This little voice inside me said "I'm going to start a sit ski program in Fernie". It sounded so sure, so certain, so unmovable... Like a mountain... It truly was a mountain, and from where I was sitting at the bottom, it seemed monumental, and slightly impossible. The thing is, when something appears to be impossible, my mind ends up saying "challenge accepted"... Sometimes without my consent... With that, I took out a pencil and paper, said a quick prayer, and got to work.
I found it amusing going through my old blog posts and reading about my journey of creating FIRE. My 15 and 16 year old self was very ambitious, very positive, and at times a wee bit dramatic. I don't think it even crossed my mind that there weren't many teens my age striving to tackle the same challenges as I was. In my mind, this program that I dreamed of was always going to happen, come hell or high water. Nothing is impossible for a driven youth with vision. My previous posts show me working through whatever challenge presented itself, whether it was choosing a name for the program (can you believe I was actually considering FARDS: Fernie Alpine Resort Disabled Skiers!? What was wrong with me!?), filling out all the paperwork to become a society (which I hated with a passion apparently...), or raising funds for our very first sit skis. I'll never forget the very first meeting we had as an official society. Having never been the president of anything before, I was completely a blank slate, and ended up calling the meeting to order by triumphantly declaring, "I command this meeting to be opened... Yay!". At the time I couldn't figure out why the other members were laughing so hard, but now I find it just as hilarious as they did. I remember saying in one of my posts that I felt intimidated by all the adults on my board, but I had unending enthusiasm to bring to the table, and that counts for something! Those moments began to gradually shape me, and the knowledge I have gained from them will stay with me forever.
My favourite post by far is when I describe the very first day of FIRE, on January 20th 2013. I felt proud, excited, relieved, optimistic, and a little stunned all at once. I said that we were finally free to ski, and that the program would be the key to many more possibilities. You can tell that I truly loved the program, and I hope that still shows today. The first day of the program was a victory. It was the climax of everything we had been working towards. It was the spark, which ignited the flame.
What the program is today truly amazes me. In the four years we've been in operation, the program has doubled in size, and continues to show signs of growth everyday. We started with two sit skis, we now have four. We had five students, today we have twelve. Nine instructors multiplied to twenty two! Statistically the growth we've been through has been unbelievable! I attribute the success of the program mostly to prayer. Whenever I was stressed about something, my Mother would always say, "Grace, have you prayed about that?" or "Grace, you need to let go and let God take care of that.". It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but God's hand on the program and its development has been very obvious to me as the years go by. Funnily enough, this season I prayed (half jokingly) that God would make it snow every weekend so we'd have better conditions at the end of our year. I'm being completely serious when I say that it snowed almost every weekend like clockwork... Thank God!
I'm not sure if I'll be able to put into words just how much FIRE has meant to me throughout the years. I've been through hardships, frustration, stress, and times when I wondered why on earth I decided to take this on. I still feel that way sometimes actually... But then I go up to the hill every Sunday, sometimes to ski and sometimes just to make sure everyone gets off safely, and all it takes is for me to see the smiles on everyone's faces... Instantly, the whole ordeal of getting FIRE started becomes worth it. The positive atmosphere during lesson times is so real, it's almost tangible. The most rewarding part of my job is watching the lives of our team being changed. I couldn't be more thankful for what FIRE has done in my life as well. The list of skills that I gained through this experience are unending, but most importantly is what FIRE has done for my character. I've gain confidence and strength, two things that I never thought I'd have. I've learned what's important in life and how to fight for it. I could go on and on explaining what FIRE has done for me, but I'd say this post is long enough as it is...
Truly, the best thing about FIRE, in my opinion at least, is this... It wasn't one single person who made FIRE possible. It was a lot of people with the same flame on the inside, who got together, and made a difference. There was a need, and everyone pulled together to fill it. It's truly amazing what can happen when we work together. I want to thank each and every person who helped to make FIRE what it is today. The flame has been kindled, and will continue to burn for many more years to come.
Stay tuned for more posts on my ski adventures, coming soon... :)