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Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Higher Ground-‘They See You as a Person, Not a Disability’
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“In a world where you can be anything, be kind,” Diesel Ward told those attending Higher Ground’s Supper Club. “And, remember, the world needs weird.”
 
Sunday, February 9, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

President Trump may have delivered his State of the Union this past week.

But it was a speech by a 14-year-old boy with autism that tugged at the hearts and minds of 150 men and women attending Higher Ground’s Supper Club at the Argyros Center for the Performing Arts.

Diesel Ward, a freshman at Wood River High School, told those attending the fundraiser that he has a happy family and lives a happy life despite challenges of autism.

 
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Grant Swindle and Nathan Lago served hors d’oeuvres prior to serving Becky and Steve Ludwig’s oh-so-tender grilled bistro filet with jimmy red grit cake and Anne Mason’s moist tres leches cake.
 

“My sister Sailor says most brains have red, yellow and blue wires and they connect to the right colors. But mine has red, purple and blue wires and they don’t always connect to the right color. Sometimes I get distracted and they get turned upside down, sideways, backwards. It’s not bad. It’s just me and I kind of like me,” he said.

Ward, who has participated in Higher Ground’s ski and other programs since he was 4 years old, said Higher Ground’s summer camp is his favorite thing in life. So beloved that he begged his mother this past summer to let him stay here and attend summer camp instead of go with his family on a vacation to Mexico.

“It’s a place where I get to be with my friends and do all these cool things,” he said.

With so much attention to Higher Ground’s programs for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, it’s easy to forget that Higher Ground has a whole other program for Sun Valley-area adults and children with such challenges as cognitive disabilities and Down Syndrome, said Sharon Davies.

 
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Ketchum Wilt checks out a slider, a new tool for skiers who would otherwise need to use two outriggers on their arms to ski.
 

And that is what the Supper Club is for--to raise money for afterschool and summer camp programs that serve about 350 participants a year.

Davies’ son Zoey Davies-Reid is now a 42-year-old participant in Higher Ground’s programs. But there was nothing for him when he was young, she said. Now Higher Ground offers such activities as curling, sled hockey, kayaking, bocce ball, hiking, swimming, archery, bicycling, snowshoeing and horse riding.  And it’s trying to seek sponsors for a new golf program, which has been requested by its participants.

“When Higher Ground started, Zoey began meeting people. And he loved skiing with them,” said Davies. “Even this morning those in Higher Ground’s Members Only Club got together and made hors d’oeuvres for tonight’s supper. This is for them—and it’s a wonderful thing to see.”

Two youngsters from the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind told of their experiences in Higher Ground’s ski camps.

 
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Natalie Benitez signs her speech at Higher Ground’s Supper Club.
 

“When I met the people at Higher Ground, I felt amazing,” said 12-year-old Natalie Benitez. “Sometimes I want to quit and they encourage me to try. They make me feel like I can do it. When you have confidence like that, it makes you feel like you can do anything in life, that you will be successful.”

Lori Lee described her elation at skiing from the top of Dollar Mountain: “I never give up and Higher Ground has never given up on me. They see us as a person, not a disability. I’ve faced many challenges but Higher Ground has opened up my world to all kinds of possibilities. I can and I will succeed.”

 

Reggie Swindle’s son Grant has been involved since Higher Ground’s got its start as Sun Valley Adaptive Sports 18 years ago. And he was the one grinning the most from the start, she said.

 
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Higher Ground showed off some of the new tools designed to help those with disabilities become more independent on the ski slopes at the event.
 

“They say it takes a village to raise a child. And, when you have a child with a disability, you really understand what that means,” she added. “Higher Ground has been a huge part of that village… People with disabilities want the same thing as you. They want to be loved, they want social engagement…and Higher Ground provides all that.”

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED:

  • For Higher Ground’s Alpine Team from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays until March 6. There are additional opportunities from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday.
  • For the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind camps March 3-8 and March 16-18.
  • For Higher Ground’s Winter Games March 14.
  • For the Members Only Club, a weekly group for adults with disabilities, which meets Wednesday and Friday mornings beginning in Spring.

To learn more, contact elyse@highergroundusa.org or 301-821-5213.

Higher Ground’s HERO’S JOURNEY, a fundraiser for its veteran’s programs, will take place July 6.

For more information, visit www.highergroundusa.org.

 

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