More than 160 Wounded Warriors and Family Members to Ski and Snowboard at the 26th Annual The Hartford Ski Spectacular, Dec. 2-8 in Breckenridge, Colo.

Seven-day event brings together injured service members from across the country, ranging in ability from first-time skiers to members of the U.S. Paralympic teams.

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Wounded warrior Justin Widhelm training in Biathlon at The Hartford Ski Spectacular.

'Participating in sports gives me the feeling of being on top of the world rather than the world being on top of me.'-- Justin Widhalm

Rockville, MD (PRWEB) November 15, 2013

Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) will host the 26th Annual The Hartford Ski Spectacular Dec. 2-8 at Beaver Run Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort in Breckenridge, Colo. The seven-day event, sponsored by The Hartford, is one of the nation’s largest winter sports festivals for individuals with physical disabilities.

Among 800 participants will be more than 160 wounded warriors and their families, many of which will try snow sports for the first time. Wounded warriors are coming from Walter Reed National Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Tampa VA, and all across the country. All military participants and family members are participating at no cost through DSUSA’s Warfighter Sports program that has served more than 7,900 severely wounded warriors and family members since 2003.

“The Hartford Ski Spectacular is a great event where I learned the sport of biathlon. As a former Army sniper, biathlon appeals to me because you have to move into positions quickly and then shoot, allowing me to use the skills I developed in the military. Participating in sports gives me the feeling of being on top of the world rather than the world being on top of me,” says wounded warrior and aspiring Paralympic athlete Justin Widhalm, who broke his back and suffered traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq in 2006. He resides with his family in Fountain, Colo.

Training and educational events at The Hartford Ski Spectacular strengthen and expand adaptive snow sports programs in communities throughout the U.S. This helps local DSUSA chapters improve their services so when wounded warriors leave hospitals and return to their homes, they have opportunities to continue their sports rehabilitation.

“The Hartford is proud to sponsor this incredibly impactful program for the 20th consecutive year,” says Mike Concannon, executive vice president of The Hartford’s Group Benefits business. “Through our partnerships with DSUSA we seek to increase awareness about the achievement that’s possible when you focus on ability. We hope all the wounded warriors and family members who hit the slopes at The Hartford Ski Spectacular will be inspired as much as they inspire us.”

The Hartford Ski Spectacular’s Presenting Sponsor is the U.S. Paralympics: Grant funding for this program is awarded by U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, through funding provided by Veterans Affairs. The grants are provided to facilitate the growth of Paralympic-sport programming for disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.

The event is also sponsored by Wash Depot Holdings; Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation; Team Semper Fi; Tee it up for the Troops; Oshkosh Defense; Fluor; Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center and Breckenridge Ski Resort.

“Thanks to the longstanding support of our sponsors, at this event alone we have served over 1,000 severely wounded warriors and their families,” says Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA. “These warriors usually come straight from the hospital to The Hartford Ski Spectacular and build their confidence and motivation. They discover how much they can accomplish on the slopes which translates to all areas of their lives.” Bauer knows firsthand about the challenges of disability. While serving in Vietnam in the U.S. Army, Bauer lost a leg from a hand grenade during an ambush.

Partnering organizations include: Disabled American Veterans, Maggie George Foundation, Professional Ski Instructors of America- American Association of Snowboard Instructors National Adaptive Academy (PSIA-AASI), Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers, Vail Adaptive Sports, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and Breck Sports. DSUSA chapters supporting the event include: Host chapter Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and chapters Adaptive Action Sports, Adaptive Adventures, National Ability Center, New England Disabled Sports, National Sports Center for the Disabled, Outdoors for All, STRIDE, Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports and Wintergreen Adaptive Sports.

Follow the action at The Hartford Ski Spectacular on Twitter and Facebook. Look for @DisabledSportUS and #skispec on Twitter and Disabled Sports USA on Facebook, as well as @TheHartford on Twitter and Facebook.

About Disabled Sports USA
Founded in 1967, Disabled Sports USA is a national charitable organization that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities to develop independence, confidence, and fitness through participation in sports. What began as a program to serve Vietnam veterans has since grown into one of the nation’s largest multi-sport, multi-disability organizations, annually serving more than 60,000 wounded warriors, youth, and adults with disabilities. A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Disabled Sports USA offers programs in more than 30 summer and winter sports through its nationwide network of more than 100 community-based chapters. For more information, visit http://www.disabledsportsusa.org.

About Warfighter Sports
Warfighter Sports, a program of Disabled Sports USA, offers sports rehabilitation for severely wounded warriors in military hospitals and communities across the U.S. through a nationwide network of over 100 community-based chapters. Since 1967, Disabled Sports USA has proudly served wounded warriors, including those injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, offering over 30 winter and summer sports at more than 100 events each year. Warfighter Sports rebuilds lives through sports by improving self-confidence, promoting independence and uniting families through shared healthy activities.

Contributions cover all expenses for participation of the warrior and a family member, including individualized adaptive instruction, adaptive sports equipment, transportation, lodging and meals. Since 2003, more than 7,900 of the most severely wounded and their families have been served, including those with amputations, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, visual impairments, and significant nerve and muscle damage. For more information, visit http://www.warfightersports.org.

About The Hartford
With more than 200 years of expertise, The Hartford (NYSE:HIG) is a leader in property and casualty insurance, group benefits and mutual funds. The company is widely recognized for its service excellence, sustainability practices, trust and integrity. More information on the company and its financial performance is available at http://www.thehartford.com. Join us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TheHartford. Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/TheHartford.