NEWRY — More than $300,000 is anticipated to be raised Saturday, March 23, at the 28th annual Ski-A-Thon at Sunday River Ski Resort.
Tuesday's snowstorm ensured there will be plenty of snow for Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation's flagship fundraiser. Maine Adaptive is the state's largest adaptive recreation program for children and adults with physical disabilities.
"Thanks to excellent ski conditions, increased participation and early returns, the event is on track to raise over $300,000 this weekend," Eric Topper, Maine Adaptive's director of Outreach, said Tuesday in a news release.
Topper said the 2013 Ski-A-Thon "is well ahead of previous years" in participation and funds raised to date.
With five days remaining, nearly 100 teams have registered, and all have been fundraising to support the organization’s mission to provide and promote adaptive recreation for people with physical disabilities.
More teams are signed up at this point than in any of the previous five years, Topper said.
"Fantastic ski conditions" at Sunday River and elsewhere have created much of the increased enthusiasm for this year's spring skiing event, he said.
“We deeply appreciate everyone’s incredibly active fundraising in support of Maine Adaptive’s mission," Topper said.
"We’re looking at great numbers and results so far, with 100 or more teams clearly within sight," said Peter Adams, Maine Adaptive's executive director. "We are having a super winter with lots of snow and very enthusiastic students and volunteers. In our 28th year of producing these enormously important and successful events, we are hoping to make this the best Ski-A-Thon ever.”
Each of the 90 Ski-A-Thon teams of five collect a minimum of $1,000 in pledges (an average of $200 each). All convene at Sunday River for a day of free skiing, on-mountain activities, free meals and contests, Topper said.
Alan Harrison of Alfred believes in Maine Adaptive so much, that he's raised $2,402 to date, topping his goal of $2,000, according to his website www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/alanharrison/28th-annual-ski-a-thon.
"This program means the world to me and so many others," Harrison said.
"When I was diagnosed with a rare adult mitochondrial disease with cerebellar ataxia seven years ago, I feared that any sport or outdoor activity that I enjoyed would become very limited or even cease," he said
He said that he and his family were avid skiers.
"To think that might end for me was very discouraging," Harrison said.
Then, through his wife, he learned about Maine Adaptive and she strongly encouraged him to try it.
"This program has changed my life tremendously," Harrison said. "It has given me back my self-esteem, helped me to regain my self confidence to try new challenges, and keeps me motivated to do the best I can with the cards that I have been dealt."
Historically, the Ski-A-Thon raises more than $300,000 to support the programs and initiatives of Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation, formerly called Maine Handicapped Skiing, Topper said.
The push for more teams goes right to the wire. Maine Adaptive's staff helps by sending weekly suggestions for creative fundraising strategies, sharing tips from top fundraisers, and providing resources such as printed materials, photos and videos to help enhance their team building and fundraising efforts.
“As enthusiastic as we are at this stage in the fundraising leading up to the Ski-A-Thon, we know from experience that the lion's share of the money is raised in the final week before the event," Adams said.
"We’re hopeful that the continued sight of snow will remind people that skiing institutions like ours count on their support."
More than 400 people with disabilities benefit from the program each year. In one day, the Ski-A-Thon raises 65 percent of Maine Adaptive’s budget for the entire year, allowing Maine Adaptive to provide all lessons for free, Topper said.