New England Disabled Sports (NEDS) lives up to its slogan of “Where Boundaries are Broken.” NEDS offers a place for anyone of any ability to be active, and they’re passionate about doing it!
For those unfamiliar with NEDs, we’ve assembled some helpful details about the great work with help from Terry MacDonald, their Managing Director.
What is NEDS?
NEDS is an organization located at the Loon Mountain Resort and the Bretton Woods Ski Resort that has been nationally recognized for its adaptive sport instruction work with adults and children that have either physical and cognitive disabilities.
This important non-profit is also a tailored effort for all abilities. “Each lesson is individualized for each specific student – it is not a group lesson. NEDS provides lessons to any individual with a disability, whether it’s a physical or cognitive disability. NEDS relies on donations and grant funds to purchase the most state-of-the-art equipment and to be able to provide affordable sports instruction. NEDS ensures that every person, regardless of ability or financial ability, has an equal opportunity to participate in sports and recreation in their community. We encourage people to think about accessibility and how to make the world more accessible and inclusive,” said MacDonald.
Humble Beginnings & Incredible Growth
When they first started out in 1987, NEDS was known as the White Mountain Adaptive Snow Sports and was a mostly volunteer effort. Since then it has grown by leaps and bounds.
“We started as a ski/snowboard program only. In 2003, we added summer sports and the Pre-Adaptive Coach (PAC) Program that winter. In 2007, we hit 2,000 winter lessons. In 2009, we built our 4,000+ square foot building and in 2011, it was formally dedicated as The Dr. Bob Harney Sports Center after one of its founders. In 2012, we took over the adaptive program at Bretton Woods. We currently provide approximately 3,500 year-round lessons. We grew from one staff member and six volunteers to five staff members and over 200 volunteers today,” said MacDonald.
As MacDonald noted, NEDS also offers a unique PAC training program for high school volunteers that want to learn about coaching those with disabilities.
“The PAC program is an exceptional opportunity for aspiring coaches who want to learn how to work with adaptive athletes and help them achieve their goals. This program is designed to provide short-term, immediate benefits including healthy, productive winter activities, disability awareness, an interactive and exciting learning environment, new experiences, new friends, and fun!” said MacDonald.
A Multi-Season Experience
No matter when people want to get active, NEDS has a program available.
In the summertime, they offer pickleball, golf, kayaking, standup paddle boarding, cycling, and mountain biking programs.
“When students accomplish things that they or their parents didn’t think they could ever do and providing sports opportunities for disabled veterans [are the most exciting parts of the NEDS summer camps],” said MacDonald.
In winter, people can participate in alpine skiing, snowboarding, nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. To make these sports accessible to all, they offer state-of-the-art equipment like the monoski, which can help those without lower extremities, the bi ski, which can assist people who have varied limb impairments or balance issues, four track skiing, which is a strong options for people with strength or balance problems along with those who have conditions like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, post-polio, spinal cord injury, stroke, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida.
Those are just three of the innovative tools they use to help athletes adapt, but NEDS actually offers many more.
They also host custom camps for between 10 and 25 people and year-round options for wounded (emotionally or physically) military members.
Living the Mission
The lifeblood of NEDS is the passion that volunteers, donors, and athletes all share for their Mission of “Through sports and recreation, to enhance lives affected by disabilities.”
“People want to feel good about helping others and making sure there are no financial barriers to keep them from participating in sports and recreation,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald also explained that volunteers are pivotal to their success. “NEDS would not be able to operate without our amazing volunteers and the number of hours they provide to give lessons.”
Why They Do This
In the end, the reason they do this work is because it makes a difference. We asked MacDonald to share a few notable success stories and she didn’t disappoint!
She said, “We recently had a student join us for pickleball who used to be an avid tennis player prior to their injury. They were excited to get back on the court for the first time after their injury and loved it!”
She continued, “A student from overseas was reluctant to join us for kayaking but ended up loving the sport because we made them feel safe and comfortable on the water.”
Having the opportunity to make a positive impact on others and creating a space that is welcoming to diverse abilities is incredibly rewarding to MacDonald and her team.
We are proud to have NEDS as a member of the Western White Mountains Chamber and are so in awe of the work that they do. If you’d like to support them, please consider donating, volunteering, or raising awareness by sharing this profile piece. Every contribution helps them make an impact.