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HoliMont’s Phoenix Program Readies for Season

 

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David Berghash Named Director 

By Alicia Dziak

HoliMont’s Phoenix Adaptive Program, which teaches children and adults with special needs to have fun flying down the slopes, is getting ready for another great season for students and instructors alike.

HoliMont’s Program began in 1996, when former program director Chuck Richardson was asked to work with a special needs student. Since then, the program has grown to include several students of all disabilities, from physical to cognitive.

This season, Richardson has stepped into the position of athlete coordinator, and stepping into his former role as program director is David Berghash.

While director is a new role for him, Berghash noted it’s his “seventh year with the Phoenix program.”

The Phoenix program, which is part of HoliMont’s Snowsports program, is made up of a dedicated group of instructors and volunteers.

“We get together once in November for dry land instruction,” said Berghash. “We go over different disabilities and procedures. Then we all get together again in December in conjunction with the ski school.”

Adaptive ski teaching focuses on skill development, regardless of where the movement originates. Each student typically has at least one lead instructor and one volunteer.

“When an instructor has a volunteer, it enables the instructor to focus solely on the student and their progress,” explained Annette Auteri, a certified adaptive level I instructor with a specialty discipline in teaching the blind and developmentally disabled. Auteri has been with the Phoenix Program since 2011 and was formerly a volunteer.

The director typically assigns the instructors and volunteers based on the staff on hand for the day and the needs of each particular student, unlike alpine programs where one instructor is assigned to a small group of students. In some instances there are multiple instructors and volunteers, Berghash explained.

Lessons start on Dec. 27, and are held regularly on weekends for HoliMont members throughout the season. On Sundays, “we open up our outreach programs to the public,” explained Berghash. “We also offer lessons during the week by reservation.”

“We typically have 12-18 regular students, plus a handful of drop-ins,” said Berghash.

Berghash, who previously worked with other adaptive programs, enthusiastically pointed out the dedication of everyone involved in the Phoenix Program.

“The training and all the information we get through HoliMont is second to none,” he said. The team is made up of PSIA instructors who have met the high standards and certifications needed for adaptive instruction. He also added that the “consistency with our students” is a differentiator in HoliMont’s adaptive program; students generally stick with the same instructor(s) each week.

Phoenix Program instructors share Berghash’s enthusiasm for the program.

“It’s definitely not a j-o-b!” said Auteri. “There’s an enormous amount of contagious positive energy and excitement the moment you step foot into the Phoenix Room. The camaraderie among staff and volunteers gives one a sense of, ‘I have to be a part of this!’  My question is, who wouldn’t want to be involved?”

She added: “I hate to see each season end. It goes by so quickly! We’re like one big family.  You look forward to seeing the students and their families year after year…This is a program that sets everyone up for success — not failure. Parents trust us with their kids. We need to provide the very best safe and fun experience possible – otherwise, they won’t come back!”

Best rates for lesson packages are available before Dec. 1. For more information, call 716-699-8159 or visit holimont.com.

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