I am Dan Richards, an ambassador for H4H. In May 2009, shortly after returning from a busy but successful tour in Afghanistan, I was involved in a serious road traffic accident whilst on duty. Aside from a myriad of injuries, this event resulted in the amputation of my entire right arm and shoulder. Since then I have been on the road to recovery to learn how, as near as possible, to lead a normal life.'
I was extremely fortunate to be selected for a place on the 2016 Ski Week in Klosters, Switzerland with Supporting Wounded Veterans/ Skiing with Heroes. It was a fantastic experience, and one that has changed my life. But first, for those who don't know, let me explain what Skiing with Heroes actually is.
Skiing With Heroes is a small, independent UK-based charity founded by Gilly Norton which supports wounded veterans through a specially designed ski-based development, mentoring and job-finding programme. The charity held its first Ski Week event in Klosters in 2013 where 18 veterans were taken for seven days of ‘skihabilitation’; a process which helps veterans regain their confidence and start them on a path to fitness, sustained wellbeing and, if desired, employment. Such was the total success of the inaugural Ski Week that it has been repeated annually since, with the most recent trip taking place in February this year. And now after another successful Ski Week, applications are already open for attendance at the 2017 trip, firmly setting the schedule for this trip to continue as an annual event.
In March 2015, I was made aware of the opportunity to go skiing with SWH. After a short selection process, which involved a very relaxed interview in London, I was excited to learn that I would be going to Klosters in February 2016. Upon my arrival at Zürich Airport it was evident that this was going to be, above all, a great week of adventure. We arrived in Klosters and were taken to The Silvretta Hotel. From the moment I walked through the hotel’s sliding doors, I felt a sense of belonging. Any and all worries I had were immediately forgotten, it was as if I was knocking on the door of life and being greeted with open arms by everyone and everything. The accommodation was sublime with great views over Klosters from my bedroom window. With its stunning mountain views, the town felt like the inside of a snow globe, even more so when it snowed.
During my first day on the mountain I was met by both my Ski Buddy and my Instructor. With five days of personalized one-to-one instruction and support, I would go on to build a strong friendship with both. The training I received was phenomenal. My instructor, a local Swiss adaptive ski instructor, was beyond amazing and by the end of day two; she had me parallel-turning at speed with confidence and with a belief in my abilities as a skier. Aside from the skiing, there was also medical, physiotherapy and wellbeing support to all veterans from a team of professionals.The level of support and care I received during the week overwhelmed me and very quickly I began to notice changes in myself and could feel my confidence raise a gear or two. By the end of the week, my self-belief in my physical abilities was at an all-time high; a feeling which, as I write this, has remained since I returned home. I realised that since my injury, I had been walking along the path of life, rather than running it. I arrived at Klosters thinking that I was ok, that I didn’t need fixing and that I was fortunate to have the life that I did. But the people I met on the ski week, the confidence I achieved, and the insights into my own dreams and ambitions for my future meant that my time in Klosters was a defining moment in my life.
For me, my affiliation with Skiing with Heroes has completely changed my life. I have discovered a whole new level of confidence both in myself and in my abilities to deal with life and have completely re-evaluated my personal and professional goals and ambitions.
If SWH is something that interests you, visit their website at www.skiingwithheroes.com
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