Craig’s Bill Sawer devotes expertise to ski program | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig’s Bill Sawer devotes expertise to ski program

Craig resident Bill Sawer and STARS client Sarah Weinstein, of Illinois, grin for the camera before hitting the slopes in Steamboat Springs on New Year's Day. Sawer, a lifetime skier, volunteers with STARS (Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports), which assists people with physical or mental disabilities with sporting activities.

When Craig resident Bill Sawer is on the ski hill, he feels on top of the world in more ways than one. The only feeling better is sharing that with someone who might not otherwise get to have the experience.

Sawer is one of many volunteers for Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, or STARS, a regional program that assists the physically or mentally handicapped with rugged activities.

In Sawer's case, that means working as a ski instructor, something he would do just for the chance to hit the slopes again. An instructor of 50 years starting when he was a teenager, he has never been too far from the sport, either competitively or for fun.

STARS gives him the chance to share his love for downhill with others, be they a veteran with a prosthetic limb or a child with a condition such as autism or Down syndrome.

"Most people with disabilities are going to hide from society," he said. "They don't want to be seen in public, and when they get enough courage to participate in our program, they can learn how to enjoy the outdoors. They don't have to be just bystanders or just looking. They can be part of it."

The pay — lift tickets — can't be beat, and while extra patience and sometimes some unique equipment might be required, seeing someone make progress is always enjoyable, Sawer said.

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"It's real rewarding to see them get to be part of everything up there," he said.

Sawer has been part of STARS for about four years, and the organization is in the middle of its busy season, seeing clients from across the country as well as dozens from within the region, many of whom are involved with Horizons Specialized Services in Moffat and Routt counties.

Although she hates to play favorites with the 150 volunteers that work with her organization, STARS Executive Director Julie Taulman said Sawer is someone who has always stuck out to her.

After seeing him acclimate to the work in his first year, she saw him become increasingly dedicated.

"He truly never misses (a day); he's over here three days a week taking the bus from Craig. He's enthusiastic with the kids and adults, and our clients are extremely lucky to have him," she said.

Juggling his work with STARS is another wintertime project — an adult indoor soccer league. Sawer may be busy, but he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

"I think the first 30 years, I was skiing for me, and now the last 20 years that I can ski, I'm skiing for someone else," he said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Sports.

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