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Jane Stevens is described as “the type of person who gives her all to a cause.” Photo / Supplied
PASSIONATE VOLUNTEER’S SKILL GUIDES PEOPLE WITH DIABILITIES INTO JOY OF SKIING
Jane Stevens has an incredible skill. She can teach people with any kind of disability to ski.
It makes no difference “whether it’s physical, sensory or intellectual”, if someone wants to go skiing or snowboarding then Ms Stevens, with Adaptive Snow Sports New Zealand, can make it happen.
Ms Stevens has worked in the field for nearly 30 years. She began as a passionate volunteer which eventually morphed into fulltime employment. Those she has helped range from first-time skiers with cerebral palsy to gold medal-winning Paralympians.
For her work in adaptive snow sports, Ms Stevens has been nominated for a Pride of New Zealand Award, in the Community Spirit class. “Jane is the type of person who gives her all to a cause,” said her nominator. “She has a wealth of knowledge and is never too busy to help her team of volunteers to further their skills.”
Ms Stevens’ interest in adaptive snow sports was sparked when she met a man in her university physical education class who had a disability but could ski. “It fascinated me from very early on,” she said. “There was a lot of lateral thinking in those days – that’s what really interested me about it. “And then it snowballed.”
While travelling the world she was exposed to ski programmes designed to support people with disabilities. Upon her return to New Zealand she became involved with a local programme which was “at the forefront”. Part of her work now focuses on recreational skiing – the goal being to get people enjoying snow sport with their families. “When you get to see kids get out on snow, who perhaps have a visual impairment, and we get them having fun alongside their brothers and sisters, mums and dads, it’s amazing.”
Ms Stevens has also been integral to the rise of Paralympic stars, notably Adam Hall. “I remember a day at Mt Dobson – and he was pretty young at this stage – I said, ‘Well, if you want a Paralympic medal in skiing, you’ll have to learn’.” Ms Stevens said. “So we went into a shop, pulled these old skis out and drilled holes in them. It was all hit-and-miss, really. “We went up to the mountain and it was a powder day, which wasn’t conducive to learning to ski, and we gave it the last we had, trying to figure out how we were going to do it … and then he turns around and wins a gold medal.”
If people want to go down the high-performance track, then Ms Stevens provides them with a pathway. There is nothing like watching them succeed, she said. “For me it’s trying to see the whole picture come together and making sure you support every skier, from beginner right through to those who are representing their country.”
The New Zealand Herald, Wed., July 22, 2015
By Eva Corlett