U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalist Does This Surprising Thing

The Hartford Ski Spectacular | JOE KUSUMOTO PHOTOGRAPHY

This holiday season, dreams really did come true for nine lucky athletes. In partnership with the Hartford’s Ability Equipped program, Mike Schultz, U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalist in Snowboarding surprised disabled athletes with special adaptive equipment.

The Hartford is celebrating its 25th year as the title sponsor of The Hartford Ski Spectacular, one of the nation’s largest winter sports festivals for people with disabilities. In addition to helping to surprise the young athletes with new equipment Schultz participated in one-on-one practice sessions to help the young athletes get closer to achieving their dreams. All the new equipment was donated on behalf of The Hartford’s Ability Equipped program.

So how did the wonderful surprise go down and what did Schultz share with The Cheat Sheet about the experience?

Athletes received special equipment on December 6

JOE KUSUMOTO PHOTOGRAPHY

The excitement occurred at The Hartford Ski Spectacular. The teens looked thrilled and shocked to receive such a generous offering. Among the recipients were:

  • 17-year-old Katlyn Maddry, a below-knee amputee and avid competitive snowboarder from Alaska. She received the Versa foot and a snowboard.
  • 14-year-old Abby Duffy, a young blind skier, whose coach has seen the potential in her to be an elite athlete. She received new skis and a communication system.
  • 17-year-old Michael O’Hearn, a young man born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, who sees skiing as his life. He received new skis and poles.

Schultz shares in the excitement

He says he was just as thrilled to be presenting the equipment as the kids who received it. “It was an awesome experience,” he says. “It is incredible what The Hartford is doing to support adaptive athletes through their new Ability Equipped program. Adaptive equipment is expensive which makes it impossible for some people to buy. So it was exciting to be a part of The Hartford’s equipment donation to these nine athletes. After seeing the shock and joy on their faces, that surprise moment definitely moved me.”

“It was definitely a surprise,” he adds. “These kids put a lot of effort into becoming athletes and they are constantly working hard for opportunities like this. I think they definitely showed their appreciation and it was amazing to see.” He says he’ll always remember the kids’ reaction too.

What is Schultz’s dream for the athletic hopefuls?

JOE KUSUMOTO PHOTOGRAPHY

The Hartford Ski Spectacular provides a considerable amount of exposure for the teens. “Some of them are trying out sports for the first time,” Schultz says. “And are exposed to the latest technology in adaptive equipment. There are also elite level U.S. Paralympic athletes here willing to coach and mentor them and help develop their skills.”

“If it is a sport they are familiar with, coming to Ski Spec can help accelerate their skill set,” he continues. “Another component of The Hartford Ski Spectacular is the adaptive community atmosphere, which is what I enjoy being involved in this program. That team feeling where everybody is trying to help everybody.”

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