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Transforming Empathy Into Empowerment

Published: October 30, 2017

To the Editor:

We would like to address events concerning the future of LOF Adaptive Skiers. At the August 17 Board of Selectmen meeting Joel Zeisler, LOF founder, defended the organization and its benefit to the community. He said that no selectman had ever come to an event. Pat Llodra said that she had witnessed events, watching from the opposite side of the lake and “seen the smiles.” This is not about the smiles; it’s not just going for a thrill ride. This is a transformational event for participants and their families.

What you can’t see and hear from the other side of the lake are the conversations and impact this organization has on the families. A mother saying that this is the first time she has seen her 14-year-old son really smile since becoming paralyzed after falling off a cliff. A man paralyzed on one side after a stroke, telling us “For five minutes I felt like a normal person,” forgetting his disability. A woman, who was left a paraplegic and depressed after a bike accident, stated that LOF turned her life around, gave her a sense of purpose, and that she’s no longer depressed. A veteran who lost both hands in Vietnam, has progressed from being a participant to a trainer to the director of the LOF adaptive snow skiing program. One mother thanked us, not just for allowing her child to have fun, but more importantly for being role models, showing her child that people can show kindness and compassion by volunteering to help others. At every event there are family members who anxiously look on the first time their disabled loved one goes waterskiing. The transformation is profound and immediate as the participant returns to the dock with a huge smile on their face, and the whole family becomes filled with pride and optimism. LOF allows participants lives to be transformed both on the lake and beyond, allowing them to accomplish things they never thought they could.

Regarding the complaint that this does not benefit Newtown residents, we strongly disagree. Volunteers at LOF are made up of many Newtown teenagers, young adults, and adults who benefit from this program as much as the participants. Over the summer, volunteers experience how this program transforms empathy into empowerment, and are given a greater understanding and respect for people with disabilities, and for their loved ones. They begin to see the real person, to the point where they don’t see the disability at all, only the possibility. Having a passion for helping others to succeed in spite of major obstacles, what better thing can we be teaching our Newtown residents?

If you are a Newtown resident, please let elected leaders know that they should support this worthwhile endeavor. Newtown is a great community whose foundation is built upon its strength to come together to support each other, despite obstacles.

Sincerely,
Scott and Sharon Poarch
9 Forest View Drive, Sandy Hook         October 30, 2017

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