On Feb. 15, a group of 14 special teens between the ages of 14 and 18 will have an experience designed to be equal parts enrichment and fun.
The seven boys and seven girls, all amputees, will learn how to ski during a five-day trip to the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colo., sponsored by American Airlines in conjunction with Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.
It’s the 10th year that American and its employees have devoted time, talents and resources to the adventure. American Reservations Representative and Abilities Employee Resource Business Group member Bruce Sickler joins fellow employees in hosting a send-off for the excited participants. This year will mark his sixth send-off. He notes that this is the first time many of these kids have even been on an airplane.
“Some of them are shy and we just try to get them out of their shell and put a smile on their face,” he says. “We answer any of their questions. We’re there for moral support.”
Working with the send-off since 2009, Sickler says he is proud of American and the Abilities group and their work to enhance the community by them sharing their perspective and ideas. “We help show [the young skiers] that just because you have a disability, doesn’t mean you can’t overcome and utilize your abilities.”
That sentiment of perseverance, as well as independence, is driven home from beginning of the participant’s trip to the end. It’s a profound experience for the teens, many of whom have never been on a plane, seen a mountain or even traveled far from their homes.
“They get to take a ski trip without their parents, so it’s about learning about independence,” says Don Cummings, director of prosthetics at Scottish Rite. “They come from varied backgrounds. Some may be the only children in their schools who have an amputation, so another aspect is peer support. They get the opportunity to realize they are not alone.”
The ski trip is part of American Airlines Kids in NeedSM program. Donations of miles from AAdvantage® members, who have given more than 127 million miles to support this cause, help expand the program’s reach.
“It just gives the kids a tremendous opportunity each year,” “I don’t think we could do it without American’s support.”
The American Airlines Kids in Need program provides worldwide support for children and their families, as well as for organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with needs for medical, educational and social services issues. Donating miles to Kids in Need directly supports those causes.