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Grant Brings Military Teens With Disabilities to NH for Winter Sports Camps

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Courtesy photos Northeast Passage.

Nearly 20 teens with disabilities from military families enjoyed winter sports in the White Mountains during two recent camps, thanks to a partnership with UNH’s Northeast Passage and Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program. The camps (Jan. 6 – 8 and Jan. 20 – 23) were the first-ever winter sports camps for military teens with disabilities.

The teens, some of whom had never seen snow before, sampled skiing, ice skating, snow tubing, and dog-sledding. Stephanie Lukkonen, 14, of San Diego, told the Associated Press the camp was more fun than she expected.

“I met new people, new friends, and now we talk, we text, we do fun stuff,” she said in a phone interview. “It was really cool. Really awesome.”

Cooperative Extension received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and other partners to share New Hampshire’s winter sports experiences with teens from military families around the country. Two camps for military teens without disabilities take place in February.

The camps, all run out of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center at Crawford Notch, were free (except for a $20 charge for incidentals) to 14- through 18-year-olds in military families, including food, lodging, lift tickets, lessons, and equipment rentals.

Working with Northeast Passage, a nationally renowned UNH program that develops and delivers barrier-free recreation programs, teens with disabilities sampled the same range of winter sports as the non-disabled teens.

“Throughout our 22-year history, Northeast Passage has introduced teens with disabilities and, more recently, veterans and military personnel with disabilities, to winter sports in New Hampshire. We’ve watched our participants grow, change, and connect with others as they experience something they may never have thought possible,” said Jill Gravink, founder and executive director of Northeast Passage. “This project is a natural extension of that work, and we look forward to working with our partners at UNH and in the White Mountains to bring the thrill of winter sports to this group of teens.”

“Connecting geographically dispersed military teens is important to foster their ability to support one another. These camps let us take advantage of New Hampshire’s abundant natural resources for winter outdoor recreation,” said Charlotte Cross of Cooperative Extension, director of UNH’s Operation Military Kids program. “We are also very excited to partner with Northeast Passage to serve military families who have teens with special needs

Funding for the camps came from a partnership between the Department of Defense, Office of Military Community and Family Policy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture.