Newswise — After a terrible motor vehicle accident, 11 year-old Zach and his mom were told his foot would likely need to be amputated, but they refused to give up hope. Orthopedic surgeons at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) performed seven surgeries to save the youngster’s foot, and now Zach, along with about 10 other HSS patients, will be going on a ski trip on January 9 sponsored by the hospital. They will ski at Windham Mountain in upstate New York.

The excursion, provided without cost, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the young people. Some will also get to see their orthopedic surgeon in a new light when the doctors trade their operating room scrubs for snow garb and cheer the kids on. The doctors may even ski alongside them. Dr. David Scher, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery for young people with cerebral palsy, is among those scheduled to attend. For some of the kids who have never skied, seeing their doctor encourages them to go outside of their comfort zone and adds to their excitement. 

Dr. Scher, who enjoys skiing, has been on previous adaptive ski trips to encourage his patients and cheer them on. He skis alongside them, taking photos and videos to capture their enjoyment. “It’s a fun and novel experience for the kids, an opportunity for them to be outside, to get the feeling of using their body in a different way,” he says. “For the first time, many can experience that feeling of going fast down a hill, and it’s exhilarating for them. It’s also fun for me to interact with the kids and their parents and to see their happiness.”

The adventure is made possible by the Adaptive Sports Academy at Lerner Children’s Pavilion at HSS. The academy enables pediatric patients with physical limitations to participate in athletic activities they never dreamed possible. Many of the patients who've signed up for the trip have cerebral palsy or another condition that affects body movement, muscle control, posture and balance. Like Zach, some have had multiple surgeries and have been patients at HSS for years.

The Adaptive Sports Academy sponsors a number of trips for patients throughout the year. The trips are provided without cost, thanks to the generosity of donors who support the Academy. Horseback riding, tennis, surfing and a dance lesson with the famous Rockettes are among the excursions that young patients have enjoyed. 

On the upcoming ski trip, even those who use a walker or walking canes will be able to enjoy the experience. Trained volunteers from the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham will provide instruction, adapt equipment to meet each individual’s needs, and in some cases accompany the skier down the slopes. A sit ski will be available for the kids if needed.