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Asthma kids Olympians for day

Lu Snyder

BRECKENRIDGE ‹ It’s about strength, courage and dedication. It’s about finding the strength within oneself to conquer the challenges ahead.

That’s what it takes to be an Olympic athlete, former Olympic downhill skier Jason Rosener told his audience of asthmatic children and their families Sunday in Breckenridge.

“Sometimes things don’t happen easy and it’s important to understand that,” Rosener said.

Especially, when you’re a child growing up with asthma.

Rosener should know.

As a child, he was sick a lot because of his asthma. His teachers told him it was all in his head. Rosener knew he wasn’t imagining things, but it wasn’t until he was in his late teens and met Dr. Bill Silvers that he finally understood his disease.

Some perceive asthma as a life-crippling disease ‹ but it isn’t ‹ which is why Silvers, a Denver doctor who consults in Summit County and Vail, began Asthma Allergy Ski Day 16 years ago.

“It’s grown from half-a-dozen kids to … over 70 kids from throughout the state,” Silvers said at Sunday’s 16th annual event in Breckenridge.

Silvers likes to call the annual gathering the “winter Olympics of skiing with asthma,” because “every kid with asthma who goes for it, is a winner,” he said.

In tune with the Olympic theme, an Olympian such as Rosener presents each young participant with a medal at the end of the day.

The annual ski day is an opportunity for asthmatic children, their parents and families to learn more about the disease and how to prevent attacks. The kids can learn how to ski and their parents don’t have to worry, knowing there are medical personnel close by, should something happen.

“Some of these kids have never ever skied before and a lot of the parents are afraid to let them,” said BJ Culver, whose husband, Bill, is associate medical director of the annual event.

That’s why Denise Bretsch and her son, Ryan, attended the Asthma Ski Day for the first time nine years ago. Ryan had tried to ski once before, but had an asthma attack. They hadn’t gone skiing since.

“When you come here, if (the kids) have a problem, you know they’ll be helped,” Bretsch said. “You don’t have to watch him every second.”

The safe environment lifted boundaries for Ryan. Bretsch said her son’s confidence soared after that first ski day.

And Bretsch said she and Ryan learned there are a lot of children with asthma.

“As a parent, you feel so alone,” Bretsch said. “Your child was so ill all these years. You focus on that and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Bretsch has since become more than a participant at the annual event. She now is program coordinator and said it has become a passion for her ‹ to let other parents like her, and children like her son, know they are not alone.

Peggy Periman and her sons, William, 16, and Brian, 14, travel to Breckenridge from Arizona each year for the event. Both boys have asthma, but William’s is severe.

“He had his first asthma attack at three weeks old,” Periman said.

Periman credits much of her sons’ athletic accomplishments to what the family learned at Asthma Ski Day. Like Ryan Bretsch, Periman said the event has increased William’s confidence too.

But her sons are not the only ones who gained something from the annual event.

Periman said she’s learned a lot about which medications work best for her children.

“So I could get him on the ones that really work for him,” she said.

The educational aspect of the event is for both parents and their children but Katherine Zobkiw, 12, said outright that her favorite part of the day is skiing.

“It’s just like meeting another friend,” she said of getting to know the other children. “It doesn’t matter to me if they have asthma or not.”

“It gives me a chance to experience snowboarding,” 13-year-old Kristin Prause said of the annual ski day. This was her second time attending the event and her second time on a snowboard.

She added having the opportunity to snowboard has also helped her try other things.

According to Rosener, the characteristics inherent in being a child with asthma are the same as those which make Olympians stand out from the rest: strength, courage and dedication.

Lu Snyder can be reached at 970-668-3998 x203 or lsnyder@summitdaily.com


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