SALT LAKE CITY – University of Utah Health Care’s Therapeutic Recreation and Independent Lifestyles (TRAILS) program recently announced a $23,600 gift from the U.S. Paralympics in support of three programs: handcycling, downhill skiing, and the newly-introduced cross-country ski program. Thanks to the generosity of the U.S. Paralympics, some of the cross-country skiers who initially began the program as a recreational activity are now considering the possibility of competing in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“This is exactly the type of grassroots program that the U.S. Paralympics and the Paralympic movement wants and needs,” says TRAILS program manager, cross-country ski champion, and Paralympic Games Hall of Fame member Tanja Kari, adding that the program has experienced great development and member interest in less than three months. “This creates a critical mass of potentially competitive athletes in addition to the many recreational athletes strictly pursuing skiing to promote a healthier lifestyle.”
TRAILS is a comprehensive outreach program of the University of Utah Health Care Rehabilitation Center, the only fully integrated rehabilitation program in the Intermountain West. Its mission is to promote healthy and active lifestyles for those with spinal cord injury or disease. The TRAILS program makes it possible for individuals to access equipment, instruction, and support in order to maintain their health through sports and recreation. For some, including a few of the cross-country skiers, TRAILS also helps make it possible to fulfill their dreams of becoming a Paralympic athlete.
But, TRAILS’ cross-country ski program would not be possible if not for the generous contributions of the U.S. Paralympics Military Grant Program, in partnership with the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System. Awarded in June 2009, the partnership gift targets and encourages injured service personnel in adaptive recreation and active living. TRAILS is also significantly funded by The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, which has generously granted $350,000 to the program since 2005.
To date, service personnel and others with spinal cord injury or disease have participated in cross-country skiing, handcycling, and tennis through the U of U Rehabilitation Center’s TRAILS program and referrals from the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System. The U.S. Paralympics donation made it possible to expand equipment necessary for the athletes of the cross country skiing program, in addition to the equipment used in other TRAILS programs.