Hal O’Leary, known to be one of the founders of the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) and a former ski trainer and instructor, died in the care of the Denver Hospice on Wednesday. He was 94 years old.
O’Leary has spent much of his life sharing his passion for skiing with people with disabilities and empowering them to enjoy it too. He is best known for starting the Disabled Sports Center in January 1970, when he was hired as a ski instructor at Winter Park Resort to implement a program to help patients at the Colorado Children’s Hospital. to ski, according to the organization’s website.
âHe was a hero to so many and had such a powerful impact on all of us who have had the privilege of working and volunteering with him. He was truly a pioneer in what has now become the adaptive outdoor recreation industry, âsaid Kim Easton. , President and CEO of NSCD.
Winter Park gave O’Leary six days to prepare for his class before class started. He immediately began to learn to ski on one leg while the other was suspended.
Classes started and it was not easy for the 23 amputees as they kept falling on the cold snow, which made many angry, while others cried. But as the day went on, the students started to ski in a straight line and began to enjoy the sport.
Since those early lessons, O’Leary has impacted thousands of lives through the NSCD. He was named one of the 100 Best Things to Happen to Skiing by SKI Magazine, is a member of the US National Ski and the US Disabled Ski Hall of Fame, and was named to the Order of Canada in 2010.
âHis spirit will live on at NSCD as we continue to build on the great program he started 51 years ago at Winter Park Resort,â said Easton.
O’Leary was born on May 9, 1927 in Montreal to his parents Harry and Gladys, respectively an engineer and an entertainer.
The ski activist earned a business degree from the University of Montreal while working at Goose Bay, a Canadian Air Force base in Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Soon after, he fulfills one of his childhood dreams and pursues a life in the American West. He immigrated to the United States in 1949 and settled in Colorado.