What makes a good skier great?
When they go above and beyond. When they see skiing as more than a sport, but as a way to help people, too.
Which is why today’s post is about Kelly Brush of Charlotte, VT – a truly amazing young woman.
A skier since the age of seven, Kelly worked her way up the national rankings – particularly in the fast speed events of Downhill and Suger G – and qualified to race in the US National Championships during her junior and senior year of high school. She then went on to Middlebury College (VT), where she became a valuable member of the ski team.
But on February 18, 2006, Kelly’s world changed forever. While competing in the Giant Slalom, Kelly had an accident that seriously injured her spinal cord, paralyzing her from the chest down.
Did this stop her? Not by a long shot. Since her accident, Kelly has not only started skiing again, but has established the Kelly Brush Foundation. Its mission:
- To promote safety in ski racing;
- To further spinal cord injury (SCI) research;
- To purchase adaptive sports equipment for individuals with SCI;
- To support the U.S. Disabled Ski Team.
Kelly spoke with me from the campus of Middlebury College, where she’s currently in her senior year.
Q. How did you decide to start your foundation?
A. After my accident I was in rehab in Colorado for two months. And during this time I decided I wanted to do something to make ski racing safer, so that what happened to me wouldn’t happen to anyone else. The other goals came along with it.
Q. What’s the scope of the Foundation’s activites?
A. We’re mostly working on fundraising. Last season we bought back protectors for the Middlebury Ski Team, and we also donated to the Green Mountain Valley School (this was high school I attended), the Mt. Mansfield Ski Club, and the Vermont Alpine Racing Assocation — all to improve skier safety. Our last donation was to the Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, for research in the area of spinal cord injuries. This was the rehab hospital I was in after I got hurt.
Q. What type of fundraising activities does the Foundation do?
A. This past September we held our second Century Bike Ride. About 200 riders took part. This is something we want to do every year. We plan to use the money we raised to help buy fencing for mountains who request it to make their trails safer.
Q. Are you involved in skiing again?
A. I am. Last November I went out to Vail over Thanksgiving break and took four days of lessons on adaptive equipment. Surprisingly enough, the techniques I used in conventional skiing did not help at all. Some of the things are the same — feeling the snow, for example — but it’s really completely different. I had to learn all over again. But aside from those lessons, I’m pretty much self taught.
Q. How was it to be back on the snow?
A. Fine. After I got hurt, I was never in the mind set that I didn’t want to ski again. Obviously, I’m more aware of safety. But I was never nervous or scared.
Q. What other activities are you involved in?
A. I have a hand cycle so I can bike. I rode 25 miles in the Century Bike Ride in September. And I have an adaptive golf cart that stands me up so I can play golf.
Q. What’s your major in school? Any plans for after graduation?
A. I’m majoring in Film and Media. And no, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet (she laughs.)
For more information about The Kelly Brush Foundation or to make a contribution, go here.