Paralympians to make unassisted wheelchair ascent Sunday of Mount Washington Auto RoadBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent July 31. 2014 11:50PM
GREEN’S GRANT — Tyler Walker, the first American man to win the world all-around sit-skiing championship, will on Sunday go up the Mount Washington Auto Road — unassisted in a wheelchair — to benefit an organization that works with disabled athletes.
The Franconia native earlier this year won the International Paralympic Committee 2014 Overall Alpine World Cup Championship in Tarvisio, Italy. He will be joined in his trip up the auto road by Laurie Stephens, also an IPC world champion and a two-time Paralympics gold medalist who hails from Massachusetts.
Both Walker, who was born with lumbar sacral agenesis, a condition that resulted in his spine missing after the first vertebra, and Stephens, who was born with spina bifida, were members of the New England Disabled Ski Team at Loon Mountain. Both worked with Chris Devlin-Young, a five-time Paralympian.
Disabled in a plane crash while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Devlin-Young of Bethlehem calls Cannon Mountain home. He will be one of two grand marshals for the Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country’s fifth annual Sunrise Ascent.
Joining Devlin-Young as co-grand marshal will be Stephanie Jallen, who this March at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, won bronze medals in the Super G and Super Combined events.
Walker and Devlin-Young, a five-time paralympian, also competed in Sochi, but Walker suffered a concussion during a nasty fall on his first run. Devlin-Young suffered an injury that will prevent him from joining Walker and Stephens on Sunday.
Currently a patient at the Veterans Administration hospital in Boston, Devlin-Young said he loves ASPNC, noting it is “the only program to work with people on ventilators. Who else would be hard-core enough to have their fundraising, pledge-driven ‘walkathon’ be a ‘walk’ up Mount Washington! I wish I could climb, but I’m honored to serve as grand marshal.”
Proceeds raised by the Sunrise Ascent will be used to fund the Franconia-based ASPNC’s programs.
Founded in 2009, the ASPNC serves people with disabilities in Northern New Hampshire and Vermont. It has offered participants the opportunity to bike, golf, hike and take nature walks as well as to alpine ski and ride, snowshoe and Nordic ski.
ASPNC bills itself as “the only year-round recreation, wellness and adventure program north of the notch” and its 2014 Sunrise Ascent features two new elements: Bank of New Hampshire will be the “Summit” sponsor and the “A for ability Team” that will see Walker and Stephens making a first-ever, legally-recorded, unassisted ascent up the 7.4 mile auto road.
Rise to the challenge
The A-Team will be joined by assisted teams of adaptive participants and their helpers, said ASPNC Executive Director Sandy Olney, who thanked the bank and the Auto Road for their generosity. She also appealed to the public to “‘rise to the challenge and support this unprecedented team!”
Olney said the A-Team has openings left for pledges, at $628.88 each, which would provide donors with the chance to accompany Walker and Stephens in their attempt; a post-ascent breakfast; and a ticket to the Sunset Celebration at Dawn Cottage, an intimate cocktail party where guests can mingle with the athletes.
For more information about the Bank of New Hampshire Sunrise Ascent, the A Team or to register by today’s deadline, go to www.SunriseAscent.org. To contact ASPNC, email Olney at Sandy@adaptivesportspartners.org, call 823-5232 or visit the ASPNC website at www.AdaptiveSportsPartners.org.