A Life As A Human interview with Anne Bethune – Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports (VASS)
Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports (VASS) runs skiing and snowboarding programs for persons with a disability at Grouse, Seymour and Cypress Mountains, making the mountain experience accessible to all. We have been offering programs at Grouse Mountain since 1974 and our president , Anne Bethune , embodies the magic that we call VASS. We welcome students of all ages and disabilities and utilize adaptive equipment and/or specialized teaching techniques with specially trained instructors to maximize a person’s independence on the snow. VASS offers programs from beginner to advanced, which include snowboarding, sit-ski, stand-up skiing and advanced adaptive ski racing. We are always looking for volunteers, on and off snow, it is a great way to contribute to your community and help others, while having fun. VASS is a registered non-profit society, operated by a dedicated group of volunteers, which includes an active Board of Directors, program coordinators, instructors and administrators.
LAAH: What exactly is it that you do?
AB: I am volunteer President of the amazing organization Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports. We provide skiing and snowboarding for people with disabilities on Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains.
I am passionate about what we do because we truly make a difference in peoples’ lives – the lives of both our students and volunteers on and off the mountain. My personal involvement ranges from teaching on the mountain, mentoring of our instructors, maintaining community partnerships and leading our Board of Directors. I’ve been doing this for 28 years.
LAAH: Why do you do it and what is the motivation or passion that keeps you going?
AB: VASS is the perfect blend of my love for skiing, teaching and my work as an Occupational Therapist. I am passionate about helping people of all abilities achieve their best in life and VASS combines these two areas of strength, skill and passion for me. I love the ‘VASS Magic’ that happens up on the mountain. People get to experience the skills and thrills of skiing/boarding who wouldn’t otherwise get to do so! What excites me most is the shifts that happen in peoples’ lives off the mountain as a result of their experience with VASS. I could write a book about the many many stories I have been part of. That is what drives me – these amazing and real life stories that have been impacted by our efforts. My motivation and passion is rooted in the extraordinary people I meet through VASS, the real life stories, the bonds that are formed from this shared experience and the lasting beautiful friendships.
LAAH: Do you feel that what you have done so far has made a difference? If so, can you explain how?
AB: I know that the work VASS does as an organization makes a difference to our community. Skiing/boarding is simply our vehicle – it is the magic that spins out into peoples lives that results in increased self confidence, quality family time, skill development, friendships, fulfillment of dreams, fun and freedom in life and more. We also increase awareness and education to our local community about disability.
My personal sharing of my knowledge and skills has been such a true joy to give where others truly benefit. It has been rewarding seeing instructors grow their own confidence, leadership and skills as a result of our close mentorship. Off the hill, some of my greatest learning and satisfaction has come from growing into my own learning and leadership of how to run a non-profit organization. It has been hugely satisfying to grow a successful organization by pulling together a strong collaboration of outstanding people (who are 99% volunteers) contributing their time and skills.
LAAH: Who are your allies and supporters in this enterprise?
AB: Our VASS Community – students, families, volunteers, community partners – our local mountains – Grouse Mountain in particular has been truly an outstanding partner, service groups like Rotary, ski shops, local businesses, media personalities, our sponsors (TELUS Community Fund, YVR, Battery World) and more.
LAAH: Do you have plans to grow your involvement, to expand the scope of your project? If so, can you elaborate on these plans?
AB: We are continually growing our strategic plan to better serve the needs of our community. We have recently created a new staff position – Community Relations Manager. We are also focused on many initiatives behind the scenes to increase the number of lessons we can deliver, our volunteer recruitment/retention, instructor training/mentoring and more.
LAAH: Like anything in life worth working for there must be difficulties and struggles too. Can you share with us what have been your greatest challenges?
AB: Our greatest challenge as an organization is having enough volunteer instructors to meet the demand for what we do and letting our community know about what we do.
LAAH: How can people help you?
AB: People can help us by:
- Come volunteer with us!
- Donate to our organization at www.vass.ca
- Participate in one or more of our major events each year – VASS Cup Mar 5th at Grouse Mountain, Just Singing Around Fundraiser December 2 at the Vancouver Rowing Club, VASS Movie Night – Oct 22 at Capilano U
- Share their skills with us in whatever capacity on or off the hill – fundraising, website, communications, event management etc
- Share this interview with your friends!
Listen to Anne speak about how VASS
is making a difference and getting people out to play!
The Life As A Human team thanks Anne Bethune and VASS for the amazing work they are doing and for giving us this interview. If you know Anne or anyone at VASS, please leave them a comment. We know they would love to hear from you!
All Photos Are © Corinne Risler