DIXFIELD — Team passion remained strong Tuesday, eight days after Emma’s Happy Rebels team member Ross Bean won Alpine skiing’s top trophy at the Special Olympics Maine Winter Games at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassett Valley.
Bean, 27, of Bethel and his teammates relived the Jan. 28 awards ceremony while sitting in the living room at the Emma R. Foundation LLC at 577 Common Road in Dixfield.
“I’m downhill fast,” Bean said while clutching imaginary ski poles with his hands and pumping them up and down, then bending forward into a skier’s tuck. “I’m happy I got that trophy.”
He was surrounded by teammates Christopher Hebert, 34, of Minot; Harold Brown, 60, of Canton; Patricia Kidder, 56, and Gregory Myles, 54, both of Rumford; Raymond McLean, 34, of Andover; and Kiersta Recktenwald, 27, of Vienna.
Bean sat opposite the large replica of the Michael Ripley Award trophy prominently displayed on a table. The Special Olympics expert downhill skier won his own such trophy. The team keeps the replica for a year.
The Ripley Award is given to the skier who had the fastest overall time in the giant slalom (Super G). It is named after the late Mike Ripley of Lovell, a talented Alpine skier who was killed at the age of 15 in an automobile accident in 1987. Ripley spent many hours volunteering for Special Olympics Maine and worked with the athletes one-on-one, Sandra Hebert said.
“It’s unfortunate that somebody had to die for that trophy to be established,” she said. “Ross has been striving for it for quite a few years.”
Bean won the award with a time of 34.89 seconds, Ian Frank of Special Olympics Maine said Tuesday in Portland.
“He was the fastest Super G skier at the advanced level,” Frank said.
There is no trophy like it for Special Olympics Maine cross country skiing, speed skating or snowshoeing.
“Mister Ray, you were so excited for your friend you were standing on the table jumping up and down,” Sandra Hebert said as McLean acknowledged his excitement at the ceremony.
Sandra Hebert manages the foundation and Rebels team while the team operates its own program for the developmentally disabled. Hebert is also co-manager of Oxford County Special Olympics.
“The minute they said, ‘Emma,’ everybody rose,” Sandra Hebert said of the awards ceremony. “They were very appreciative of their peer’s efforts.”
Kidder and McLean said they thought Bean, who is autistic, was going to stand on a table, too, and celebrate.
“It’s so cool,” Chantal Bean, Ross’ mother, said, early Tuesday evening in Bethel. “I wish I’d been there. This is the first time he’s won something like that. He always got little medals in the past.”
Chantal Bean, a longtime special needs teacher from Bethel to Rumford and Buckfield, works with special needs students as an educational technician at Dirigo High School in Dixfield. She had to work that day.
She said her son, who just moved into assisted living, started skiing in the Rugrats Program at SAD 44’s Crescent Park School. He skis Alpine regularly on weekends with his father, Richard Bean.
“Ross was also the first non physically-challenged skier at the Maine Handicapped program, now known as Maine Adaptive,” she said. “He has no fear of speed.”
Ross Bean said he trains at Black Mountain in Rumford, Mt. Abram in Greenwood, and Sunday River in Newry. He also practiced for 14 weeks prior to the Winter Games, Sandra Hebert said.
Emma’s Happy Rebels last won the Ripley award in 1995 when Hebert’s son, Christopher Hebert, had the fastest time.
Last week, he was vying with Ross Bean and other athletes when he fell during time trials and suffered an injury that took him out of the competition, Christopher Hebert said.
“So it was free and clear for me,” Ross Bean said.
On Tuesday, talk soon turned to swimming and the upcoming aquatic games later this month.
“Fortunately for them, swimming is good exercise for their muscles,” Sandra Hebert said. “They swim year round. It also keeps their minds and body fit.”
Each athlete competes in swimming, but Myles is probably their best swimmer, she said.
“Greg can swim 75 feet while underwater,” she said. “It scares the lifeguards, so we have to tell them ahead of time that he’s all right doing this.”
The team also participates in track-and-field and equestrian events, bowling and golf. McLean won first place in an equestrian event last November, and Myles and Christopher Hebert won a first-place trophy last year in bowling, which they held up proudly.
This year, McLean and Myles are going to the Special Olympics coaching college at Colby College in Waterville to learn how to be peer coaches.
When they’re not training or competing, the Rebels volunteer their time and services for area food pantries and other area needs.
Brown is retired, Kidder works as a housekeeper three days a week at Sunday River Ski Resort, Myles works as a janitor for Community Concepts in Rumford and Christopher Hebert drives construction trucks from April through November.
Ross Bean and Recktenwald are autistic and the other five are developmentally disabled. Not that it stops them from doing what they want to do, Sandra Hebert said.
“Ross and Kiersta are both very brilliant,” she said.
Frank agreed about Ross, having worked with him on the slopes.
“He’s kind of funny in that he can tell from the sound of a police officer’s car what kind of car it is,” Frank said. “He’s also very good with numbers.”
What is difficult for them to deal with, however, are demeaning comments and a lack of respect and dignity from the public when the Rebels are out and about, usually on Fridays.
“They do get grief from people in the community,” Sandra Hebert said. “It’s a stigma. People stare or they make comments. When they’re being demeaned, it’s sad. And it’s still going on in our schools. I’m sick of it.”
After that happens to one or more of them, she said they will do role-playing to work out what they should say rather than respond with anger.
“Our job (at the foundation) is to try to make them safe, independent and successful,” Sandra Hebert said.