Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the 25th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. It's great to be here. I'm pleased to have this opportunity to honor others for their support of the clinic.
Let me briefly acknowledge and thank some of the people who make this event the victory it is every year.
First, my very special thanks to the Disabled American Veterans, our partner for the Winter Sports Clinic for the past two decades—since 1991. Without the support and participation of great people like Wally Tyson, Dave Gorman, Marc Burgess, Mike Walsh, Susan Henry, Chad Colley, and their many devoted DAV and DAV Auxiliary volunteers, this event simply would not happen.
By the way, this is Dave Gorman's last Winter Sports Clinic as executive director of DAV's Washington office. Dave's been our go-to man at DAV for many years, and we'll miss him. All the best in retirement, Dave.
Thanks also to all of our VA volunteers—the men and women, from all over the country and even from other countries, who have taken time off to man the slopes or help out in some other way this week. I'm humbled by your compassion and generosity.
We'll be recognizing each of our corporate and non-profit sponsors in a few minutes, but for now let me extend my own and Secretary Shinseki's warmest welcome and heart-felt thanks for your generous support. I hope you'll have a chance to stick around a few days and see the good it does.
Thanks also to Snowmass Village Mayor Bill Boineau and to the people of Snowmass and Aspen for your hospitality in, once again, welcoming us into your communities and for providing the mountain for the "miracle on a mountainside."
To our local VA hosts: Glenn Grippen, director of VA's Rocky Mountain Network, Terry Atienza, director of Grand Junction VA Medical Center, and Teresa Parks, director of operations of the Winter Sports Clinic. Thanks for all that you and your people provide this clinic every year, from healthcare to logistical and administrative support.
Teresa, I know the Secretary last year identified you as the "First Sergeant" who keeps this clinic running. I'm a Navy man, so this year I'd like to change that to "Master Chief of the Mountain"—if that's all right with you?
I also want to recognize Matt Bristol, Jose Llamas, and the rest of our National Special Events Team for their year-long effort to promote and coordinate this clinic for Veterans.
Now, some of you might be thinking I've left someone out of the usual line-up. Well, I have, and I've left him out on purpose, saving the best for last. There's one man here without whom the Winter Sports Clinic would not exist—and that's founder and director Sandy Trombetta.
As a recreation therapist at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center, Sandy started taking VA patients skiing in the early 1980's. Winter sports was something new for some patients, something given up by others, and something many thought they could never do—or never do again.
Sandy showed them that that wasn't true. No matter what their disabilities, with the right equipment, the right instruction, the right assistance, and a little practice, they could make it safely down the mountain—and have a lot of fun along the way. The experience lifted their spirits, strengthened their bodies, and charged them with confidence to meet other challenges in life.
Sandy's ski trips were so worthwhile that, in 1987, he organized the first Winter Sports Clinic for disabled Veterans. Starting with 90 Veterans, the clinic grew in size every year for its first decade. It began producing a parade of winter-sports champions and paralympians. It also spawned a National Disabled Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, also organized by Sandy.
This year—25 years later—despite the struggling economy, the Winter Sports Clinic is still the largest disabled winter sports event in the world—thanks in large part to Sandy Trombetta, whose initiative, drive, finesse, enthusiasm, expertise, and compassion have brought us all to the mountain to take part in this miracle of healing.
So, Sandy, a very special thanks to you for all you've done through the years to make the miracle happen.
To everyone else here tonight: On behalf of the President, Secretary Shinseki, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and America's 23-million Veterans, thank you for backing Sandy up for all these years and giving some very special men and women the opportunity to really live again.
God bless those who serve, and God bless our Veterans.