Living the Mountain Family Dream

December 1st, 2017

Oscar is a small boy with a big personality. An eight-year-old with a type of dwarfism called kniest dysplasia, Oscar has restricted ambulation and mobility, but he doesn’t let his disability define him. If Oscar’s mop of blonde hair and pair of black, rounded glasses are eye-catching, then his quick wit is endearing and his huge, carefree smile is heart-melting.

Oscar’s older sister Olive is more soft-spoken. She was born profoundly deaf, and at nine years old she tends to prefer quiet observation to being the center of attention. Olive has blonde hair like her brother and brown, soulful eyes that can sometimes say a lot without words.

Oscar and Olive’s parents Amy and Kenny Shrum took their kids to Ignite for the first time in January 2016, and the whole family loved the experience. By the end of the season they even became the de facto poster family for Ignite when they vouched for the program in an Ignite video-interview for the 2016 gala benefit.

In the interview, Oscar described how riding in the bi-ski made him feel as if he was “flying in the air like a bird.” Olive talked about how she progressed quickly enough on alpine skis to do her first blue run: “I was a little scared at first but I did it. It was really amazing that I did it.” And for Amy and Kenny, Ignite meant that their dream of a “mountain family” that loved “skiing and being outdoorsy” was no longer impossible for their kids with special needs.

The family has come far since they started, but this past year at Ignite was definitely a change of course. When Oscar’s favorite Ignite instructor David Levin was diagnosed with cancer and eventually passed away, it was difficult for Oscar to adjust. His mom Amy can still tell that David is on his mind, and sometimes Oscar will tell her “I miss David.” Partly because David wasn’t available and partly to explore more independent options, Oscar tried out snowboarding this year. The hope was that the fixed snowboard bindings might solve some of the difficulties he would have with alpine skis. Seeing Oscar “get up on his own legs” is a goal for next year, Amy says.

Olive’s experience was much different. Because Olive’s able-bodied, Amy felt like her abilities had graduated her from the Ignite program. Olive only skied with Ignite twice in 2017, and Amy would often take her skiing on her own. However, the time away from Ignite reminded them how much they valued the program—skiing as a family is fun, but sometimes kids are more receptive to non-parental instructors. Regular group lessons aren’t an option either because Olive can’t hear instructions, so Amy is looking forward to finding an Ignite instructor in the 2017-2018 season that will push Olive and “take her over on the big hill.”

Outside of Ignite, the Shrum kids are continuing elementary school and finding time for other sports. Oscar is transitioning into third grade at a new school for the deaf and blind this fall where the environment might be more supportive for his disabilities. This summer he went adaptive sailing for a day and did a handcranked bike race with Adaptive Adventures. Olive is transitioning into fourth grade. This summer Olive attended her first two weeks of overnight camp with Avid4Adventure where she was “off-grid” and had to power her cochlear implants with a solar charger. “There’s no doubt that Ignite has helped facilitate that level of confidence to be in the outdoors,” Amy said. Olive is also playing soccer now, which is another challenge with her hearing loss.

As the winter gets closer, both of the kids are looking forward to returning to Ignite. “The kids talk about it and we look forward to it every year,” Amy says. And this year is no different.

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