SOUTHINGTON, Conn. — Ed Sperling — paralyzed in 2010 in a bicycle accident and unable to use his legs and with limited control of his arms and hands — zipped down the slopes at Mount Southington Ski Area.

Sperling, 66, of Mount Kisco, N.Y., was strapped into a big ski seat, with two volunteers tethered like training wheels to help him steer as he sped down the fresh powder hills.

“I love the rush going down the hill,” he said, in the clubhouse and back in his wheelchair after two runs down the slopes. His two helpers were volunteers with LOF Adaptive Skiers, a Newtown nonprofit that provides free ski and snowboarding clinics in winter and water skiing clinics in summer for people with disabilities.

Joining the two dozen LOF volunteers and ten adaptive skiers was state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr, (D-Branford) who lost his right leg to bone cancer at age 12 and learned to ski well on one leg using outriggers on ski poles. He hit the slopes to meet, talk, laugh and encourage participants Tuesday.

“I think this is great,” Kennedy said later inside the ski lodge room where the group met. “You can get thinking your life is over and sit by yourself at home, isolated, alone and depressed. But programs like this give you an opportunity to do something liberating, to get out and enjoy something different and transforming.”

The skiers used medium runs – real challenges, much bigger and much more of a thrill than the proverbial “bunny slopes” for beginners.

“Everyone with a disability is welcome to ski with us,,” LOF volunteer Chera Simpson of Waterbury, said, watching people get onto the chairlift, flanked by volunteers. “There’s never a charge.”

Program founder Joel Zeisler, who started LOF in 1972, said Kennedy is an inspiration and “illustrates to our participants that if you can do this, you can do everything and anything. He is a tremendous example to many of our young athletes with disabilities.”

Kennedy said after the session that people with disabilities often fall victim to low self-esteem and begin believing that “they can’t do anything.”

It’s not true, although it’s easy for someone to fall into that mindset, he said.

“When I lost my leg to bone cancer when I was 12 years old, I felt devastated and alone. I thought that I would never be able to do the things that I loved. Learning to ski on one leg using outriggers turned out to be a critical part of my recovery and rehabilitation. Adaptive skiing helped me gain self-confidence after the trauma of my surgery.”

Anyone interested in participating in any LOF clinic can sign up on their website. The next ski event is Feb. 14 at Mount Southington. Water-skiing clinics are also offered during the summer months on Lake Zoar in Newtown.

Bob Doiron, a LOF volunteer for 25 years, an LOF board member and certified ski instructor, helped adaptive skiers suit up, get fitted with whatever equipment they needed and was part of the teams who made sure people had safe and fun runs on the slopes.

“We start out teaching basics to first-timers,” Doiron, a Beacon Falls contractor, said, standing outside while fine powder snow fell, blanketing people and slope. “We want people to have a good time.”

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