My Journey to the Mountain: By Kevin Beus, Navy Veteran and first-time National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic participant
“I have been a cross country skier for most of my life, but after I lost my eye sight two years ago I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. The VA told me I couldn’t do anything for a year after my stroke.
During that time, I gained 40 pounds, lost my muscle tone and I just wasn’t active at all. Then the low vision clinic sent me to see a recreation therapist. So, I started riding the bus three hours one way to go cross country skiing once a week. My first time back on skis, I was really scared because I didn’t have trust in anyone. I’ve always been on my own, but to be able to ski blind I had to put my faith in other people. That is definitely something that’s different for me. Instead of giving up, I thought to myself, I might as well do the best I can because if I fall I’m just going to hurt for a while and that didn’t matter … I’m already hurt. I’ve been cross country skiing with recreation therapy for two years and I’m going to participate in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic for the first time. I have become pretty independent on the skis, I only need verbal cues once in a while. Now, I’m not afraid to try anything. Working with recreation therapists has inspired me to get involved with rock climbing, golfing, horse-back riding and even jogging. Becoming active again has built my confidence so that I can still do stuff even though I’m going blind.
Two years ago, I didn’t think I could do anything ever again. I thought I was going to be stuck in my house all the time, but the truth is I still can get out and participate in life. I’m looking forward to the Winter Sports Clinic this year because it’s something I know I can do and being around other people and getting out of the house is all the motivation I need.”
Helping Veterans Achieve Their Goals: By Emily Potter, Recreation Therapist
“Kevin Beus was referred to Recreation Therapy by the low vision clinic here at the VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City. He would be the first to admit that he was pretty negative when he came to see us. It was as if his life was over. He was petrified of going skiing, but he went. Sure, he fell a few times, but he got back up and kept going. It was on one of those trips that he had a huge epiphany – it was like he realized that his life wasn’t over and he could do anything he set his mind on.
He started skiing every week and challenged himself to do more. I think he built a trust foundation and this year he just exploded and started doing all sorts of activities – golf, rock climbing, skiing – and he actually just competed in the dance competition of the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival and won first place in his division. It’s been really delightful to watch him through this journey. He sets a goal each week. And his goals are focused on what he can do, not what he can’t. I’ve watched him change physically – he’s lost weight, regained muscle tone, cut back on his smoking. And I’ve seen other changes as well, like improvements in his confidence, social interaction and even his speech. Kevin has made an investment in his health and we are so proud of him.”