A family of five from Fresno, Calif., was treated to a five-day dream vacation in Crested Butte with the Adaptive Sports Center (ASC) in early January as part of last Sunday night’s episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Crested Butte locals filled up a theater at the Majestic to watch the episode, which included a segment of ASC instructor Lisa Schulte skiing with the family on Mt. Crested Butte.
Mary Ann Riojas and her four teenagers, Nichole (18), Victoria (17), Angel (15), and Jessie (14), were nominated and ultimately selected for the show, based on the numerous safety hazards Mary Ann faced on a daily basis getting around her home in a wheelchair.
Mary Ann, a former foster care child and welfare recipient, was born with no legs and one fully developed arm. She now works as an ambassador for the Easter Seals and as an advisor with her local housing authority, counseling struggling families who need to find housing.
The entire Riojas family was whisked away to Crested Butte to spend time skiing and snowboarding with the Adaptive Sports Center while their house was demolished and rebuilt by the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team and thousands of volunteers to be completely wheelchair accessible.
When Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington informed the family that they were headed to the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte for a ski vacation, they were all smiles.
This is the second time in two years that the Adaptive Sports Center has been featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In winter 2007, Patrick and Jeanette O’Donnell and their six children, five of whom have autism, enjoyed a five-day vacation with the ASC while their home was remodeled.
When show producers learned that the Riojas family had a winter getaway in mind, they contacted the ASC to see about bringing a second family out to Crested Butte. The ASC was honored to play host to the show once again, especially when the organization learned that other than Disneyland, producers had not sent an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition family to any other vacation location more than once in the history of the show.
From the time the Riojas family stepped off the plane in Gunnison to the morning they left Crested Butte, it was clear that this was a family that thrived in a winter climate. Angel went from marveling at seeing snow for the first time in the airport parking lot on that first day, to showing off his natural ability to snowboard by the end of the trip.
The whole family was full of enthusiasm as each new winter activity was introduced: dog-sledding, a snowy horse-drawn carriage ride down Crested Butte’s main street, snowmobiling, and of course, skiing and snowboarding. Not surprisingly, more than one family snowball fight ensued over the course of their visit.
Mary Ann loves the thrill and speed of riding motorcycles, so snowmobiling and skiing would be right up her alley. On the first day she arrived, Mary Ann was outfitted by ASC instructors with a Bi-Unique sit-ski and a custom elbow brace with a handheld outrigger attachment, along with one full outrigger (handheld devices for sit-skiers that provide balance and allow them to initiate turns). Mary Ann skied the Bi-Unique with a good amount of independence on the mountain’s beginner and intermediate terrain, and enjoyed skiing alongside—and sometimes faster—than her children. It is inclusive family experiences like these that the ASC prides itself on, offering them to people with disabilities and their families.
When they weren’t playing in the snow, the family was out and about taking in many of Crested Butte’s wonderful restaurants, sightseeing and enjoying their spacious suites at The Lodge in Mountaineer Square. It was a magical vacation in all respects.
The Riojas’ visit to the ASC went by fast, and when it was time to say goodbye, the staff felt attached—as with so many of the individuals and families who come through their doors. They loved getting to know this truly inspirational family and watching them transform from city slickers to nature-loving thrill-seekers in a matter of days. They hope to see the Riojas family back on the slopes with the ASC next winter, or better yet, out in Crested Butte again this summer. Stay tuned!
The Adaptive Sports Center thanks those who made the Riojas family trip to Crested Butte so special: Trent and Kaylynn Ezzell, Jennifer Read, Izzy’s, Fantasy Ranch, Lucky Cat Dog Farm, Action Adventures Snowmobiles, Maxwell’s, Crested Butte Nordic Center, Secret Stash, The Slogar, Flatiron Sports and Andrew Bettinger.
The ASC would especially like to thank Crested Butte Mountain Resort for generously providing lodging and meals for the Riojas family and Outdoor Research for outfitting the family head-to-toe in winter clothing.
Thanks also goes to the Majestic Theatre for donating theater space for a special Extreme Makeover: Home Edition viewing party.