For the usual Sunday Breadwinners brunch crowd in Inwood Village, the parking lot on Sunday, January 21, seemed a little more crowded than usual. The reason was that St. Bernard’s across the way had opened earlier than its usual Sunday noontime start.
The reason was the gathering of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children’s patients who would be on the slopes of Winter Park at the National Sports Center for the Disabled in February for the 36th annual Amputee Ski Trip. They were at the ski-friendly store to get fitted for gear.
The scene inside the store was like a pre-Christmas holiday party. Crutches were quickly stowed so kids could settle on the floor to cuddle with Ruthie, the laid-back St. Bernard mascot.
Across the way, a white-haired fella with a camera was capturing the activity. He could have easily been mistaken for one of the 14 youngsters’ grandfather. But actually he was TSRHC Chief of Staff Emeritus Dr. Tony Herring, the father of the annual ski trek. It was 37 years ago that Tony had started the TSRHC Amputee Ski Trip after hearing about a Denver program for youngsters with orthopedic challenges to head to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding.
Over the years, Tony had sent off dozens and dozens of kids who had faced the loss of limbs to do more than just learn the art of skiing and snowboarding in Colorado. It was also an opportunity for the youngsters to be with others who have gone through surgeries, therapies and the emotional adjustment to being a bionic. To Tony’s delight the kids have returned with a sense of great self-esteem.
But being ever the professional, he couldn’t help but check out the newest gear for the amputee patients like rock star Cody McCasland, who was born without shinbones due to Sacral Agenesis resulting in the amputation of both legs at the knee. He got his first set of prosthetic legs at 17 months and, over the years, he’s proved to be an extraordinary athlete, as well as scoring appearances on “Oprah” and “Ellen.”
In fitting the kids with their gear, one staffer asked second-timer Ryanne Carr what size sock she would like. She smiled and said she didn’t need them. The staffer looked a little baffled. Then she pointed out that her prosthetic legs weren’t in need of socks. It seems that the 14-year-old had lost both of her legs and part of her right arm due to being born with amniotic band syndrome. A St. Bernard staffer quickly responded asking if she had a sister or brother. The answer was “Yes!” The sibling got a nifty pair of socks. Like Cody, Ryanne has earned quite a reputation in overcoming her physical challenges. The former Junior Race Director for the Dallas White Rock Marathon admitted seven years ago that, “I like to swim; I like to bike; I like to climb trees; I like to build Legos; I like to ride horses.” Now, she’s added snowboarding to that list.
This year’s junket takes place on Monday, February 12, with TSRHC pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Henry Ellis on board, as well as TSRHC Director of Prosthetics/double amputee Don Cummings and other staffers to advise on the type of equipment that would be needed. As Tony pointed out, the trip also provides an opportunity for the staff to better understand the challenges that their patients encounter outside the hospital.
The trip is free for the kids, thanks to the Stephen M. Seay Foundation, American Airlines and St. Bernard.