Masters Skiers Ride for Adaptive Sports Cause

Woodstock — While most comfortable on snowy slopes, in recent years New England Masters ski racers have demonstrated their chops on bicycles — and in the realm of fundraising.

Captained by Bethel resident and Woodstock Union High alpine ski coach Fred Dieffenbach, team New England Masters Skiing is participating for the third consecutive year in the Kelly Brush Ride, consisting of scenic 100-, 50- or 20-mile rides in and around Middlebury, Vt., on Sept. 9. Dieffenbach’s team has nine members from across the region.

Now in its 12th year, the KBR benefits the non-profit Kelly Brush Foundation, which provides free adaptive equipment for athletes with spinal cord injuries and advocates for safety in sports. Kelly Brush, a Charlotte, Vt., native, was paralyzed from the chest down in a crash while competing for Middlebury College at the Williams College Carnival in western Massachusetts in 2006.

New England Masters Skiing has been among the top team fundraisers in recent editions of the event, having exceeded this year’s goal of $5,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, Dieffenbach alone had raised $2,475, much higher than his listed goal of $1,750.

“As a skier, the cause is near and dear to you even if you don’t directly know someone (with paralysis),” said Dieffenbach, whose team includes former Wasps coach Bill McCollom and former Woodstock skier Michael Hirschbuhl, now a sophomore and skier at Castleton University. “You see people (with disabilities), and you wish for them to have a way to ski.”

The Kelly Brush Foundation has fitted about 425 individuals in 47 states with adaptive athletic equipment, and not just skiers. Some athletes have received recumbent bikes or hand bikes, including several who participate in the Kelly Brush Ride. Others have been given specialized wheelchairs for participation in sports ranging from tennis to rugby to rifle shooting, Brush noted in a Wednesday phone interview.

“We didn’t want to limit (resources) to adaptive skiers, and we’ve really been expanding the equipment lately,” said Brush, 31. “We’ve helped (adaptive athletes) be able to scuba dive, for example, and even got what’s called a sip-and-puff rifle mount for someone. He can’t use his hands, but he uses his mouth with a mechanism so he can hunt.”

The Kelly Brush Foundation also supplies grant funding to various ski areas to help enhance safety, including the installation of fencing, padding on structures such as lift posts and widening…

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