Silence. Except for the swishes and crunches of my board hitting the snow and ice on my way down the mountain. Frozen pellets sting the part of my face left uncovered around my goggles. I am sure this is as close to flying one can get. This is my happy place, the place where I feel strong, free, and content. I bend my knees and raise my arms as I travel through the air, and reflect on the freedom and confidence that comes with snowboarding. I didn’t always have this confidence on the mountain or life, until I started participating in the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge (MDVC). That’s when things turned around for me.
The Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge is a big fundraiser that raises money for the Make-A-Wish foundation. The event features races for different age groups, and the top three winners from each age group travel to New Hampshire or Vermont for the Championship. While the races occur on the slopes, in the lodge, some members of the crew sell raffle tickets to raise funds to grant wishes for those with terminal illness. The prizes from the raffles include skis, snowboards, t-shirts, and other fun items. Participating in and fundraising for these events over the years gave me a feeling of self-worth & community, leading to the confidence I have today. Many years ago I showed up to one of the events discouraged. The DewCrew wrapped themselves around me and I left encouraged. I have participated for many years in the MDVC. In addition to participating in today’s race, I raise money for this event every year and volunteer year-round for other local Male-a-Wish fundraisers, leading up to the Challenge. Whether I’m setting up booths, raising money or handing out t-shirts, I feel exhilarated. This feeling has lead me to volunteer and give back to other organizations as well.
I’m more than halfway down the mountain and I smile under my red, black, and yellow bandanna, because I know today isn’t just about having fun. It’s about helping others. The more I smile the faster I go, swerving in and out of people going through the woods the same way I travel down the basketball court veering between the defenders. Now a varsity basketball player, I struggled in middle school socially and on the basketball court. But, with hard work, I improved my skills and made the varsity team as a freshman in high school. While basketball does not provide the level of exhilaration or time to reflect as snowboarding, it has helped me learn the value of hard work and the importance of teamwork.
The raffle will begin soon, so I decide to head down the double black diamond just for the thrill of it. Ending the day with a double black is how I like to do it because I love being challenged. On the slopes, in the gym, or in the classroom, I embrace challenge and work until I master the skill. I am not afraid of hard work and am eager to put in the extra time to acquire a new move, learn a new play or ace a hard test. I reach the bottom of the mountain and enter the lodge. The head of the Challenge begins with a heartwarming story about a boy with cancer whose wish is to have a car. The money raised today enabled Make-A-Wish to fulfill his wish.
After the celebration settles down, we have just enough time to make one more run down the mountain before it’s over. I make my way to the lift and hop on. As I travel to the top of the mountain, satisfaction fills me, knowing I was a small part in making someone’s wish come true. Providing a fun distraction or bringing a bit of brightness into a dark time in one’s life does make a difference. My small part in such a huge task helps provide hope for a special wish and happiness for people with terminal illness.