The freshly fallen snow made many Minnesotans happy over the weekend, and that was especially true for those in a Courage Center program that helps those with disabilities enjoy the thrill of downhill skiing.
At 56 years old, Norm Coone jokes about being the oldest kid in the ski club. He lost both his legs when he was just 27.
"Vascular disease for the legs, and when they were dealing with that they found cancer," explained Coone. "It was two years of hell."
Now, Coone thanks the Courage Center for making everything in his life better -- and he was excited to hit the slopes again on his second season of downhill skiing.
"It's just a rush. That's the best I can say," Coone said.
The Courage Center Ski and Snowboard program is celebrating its 45th anniversary this month. More than 300 kids, teens and adults with physical and developmental disabilities skied down the slopes of six hills throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"For a lot of them, it is the first time -- and to see the smiles on their faces and their families, how happy their families are; it's a pretty thrilling experience," said Nels Dyste, Courage Center Program coordinator.
Roughly 500 volunteers help careful escort each skier and snowboarder down the hills.
"It allows us to do a family activity we would not be able to do otherwise," said Peggy Werness, a parent who has been bringing her daughter to ski with the Courage Center for 20 years.
For 16-year old Alec Nelson, the program allowed him to strap on his snowboard for the first time since his stroke two years ago.
"It's awesome being out here again," he said. "It's really exciting."
The occasional fall reminds everyone of the courage it took to take on the hill in the first place -- and the fun they are having along the way.
"Life hasn't stopped at all. It's just begun. You have to be inquisitive enough to try," urged Coone, who now skis every weekend.
A fundraiser for the Courage Center Ski and Snowboard program is scheduled for this weekend. For more information, click here.