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Black Hills Ski for Light
Jan 20, 2014
By Rebecca Johnson
This week marks the 35th annual Black Hills Regional Ski for Light (BHSFL). Its parent organization, Ski for Light, Inc., was founded in 1975 to teach cross-country skiing to visually or mobility-impaired adults. The international event is held in a different U.S. location each year, but BHSFL has been held in and around Deadwood since 1978.
Roughly 100 participants from as far as California and Maryland head for the hills the third full week in January. “Last year I counted up to 18 states represented, so it’s not just a regional thing,” says George Lee, president of the BHSFL board of directors. “Participants are split roughly equally between visually impaired and wheelchair bound.” Cross-country skiing is located on Wharf Resources, a mine reclamation area. And the BHSFL has something the international one does not – downhill skiing at Terry Peak Ski Area.
A guide follows along beside visually impaired participants to alert them of sharp turns, hills or trees. And wheelchair bound participants have access to expensive adaptive equipment they may not otherwise be able to afford. Over 200 volunteers make the non-profit event possible, some returning for more than 30 years to help out. “They take off time from their work schedules to come out for a week, so I think that speaks to their commitment,” Lee says.
Evening activities like live music, karaoke, a slot tournament and banquet are centered in historic Deadwood. But Wednesday’s bonfire at the cross-country site will also host a wedding! Jesse Shirek and Sherry DeFrancesco met at BHSFL in 2010. They thought it only fitting to share their wedding vows at the place their relationship began, surrounded by the friends they've made. “It’s a first for us,” says Lee. “They’re really excited.”
Also new for 2014 are scholarships for disabled veterans. “This past year we applied and became a chapter for Disabled Sports USA, a national organization based out of Maryland,” Lee says. “We got a grant from them to sponsor wounded warriors. If there are any vets out there that would be interested in attending we can provide the opportunity to participate at no cost.” For more information, contact the organization at (605) 341-3626 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.