• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Helping the disabled learn to ski

Jefferson Award-winner John Alderete
March 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every month at ABC7 we like to honor Southern California's unsung heroes with the Jefferson Awards. This month's winner is someone who warms up the winter months by helping others.On a recent sunny Friday at Bear Mountain Resort, among the scores of people missing work to be there is John Alderete. He's been volunteering for the United States Adaptive Recreation Center (USARC) for 21 years. He teaches disabled people how to ski.

On the day we visited with him, youngsters from Orthopaedic Hospital in Los Angeles have come to Bear Mountain to spend some time out of their wheelchairs and on the slopes.

John says it's a labor of love that brings him back every winter -- on his own time and on his own dime.

"I like the satisfaction that I get from just seeing the people you're out there helping, the joy they get from it," said John.

It's hard enough learning to ski without disabilities. That's why volunteers like John make such an impact. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the sense of accomplishment.

Sixteen-year-old Fanny Jaramillo is getting pretty good at it. She's been coming to Bear Mountain for three years and says there's nothing like the feeling of freedom she gets from skiing.

"It gets me to know that I can do this, even though I'm in a wheelchair," said Fanny.

"Their goal may be to just make one run," said John. "And if I can help them make that one run, that's great. If they want to progress on, then hey, I can help them do that, too."

And if you fall, get back up. The lessons John teaches last all year 'round.