This year’s Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation Ski-A-Thon is on Saturday, March 25. To get involved, please visit maineadaptive.org.
Every spring for 31 years, people have dressed up in silly outfits and raced for a cause during the Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation Ski-A-Thon, the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. Maine Adaptive provides year-round recreational programming at no cost for individuals with permanent physical disabilities; over 400 volunteers from throughout New England assist athletes with more than 3,800 lessons in summer and winter programs at host venues across Maine. The whole thing is supported by businesses, corporations, foundations, and individuals, and the Ski-A-Thon generates 50 percent of the annual operating income for Maine Adaptive. It also happens to be a rip-roarin’ good time.
I recently interviewed someone who’s been a champion for this cause for a long while: my mom, Holly Bancroft Brown, also known to some as the Queen of the World. Let me explain: roughly 13 years ago, my mom started a business called “Queen of the World, Inc.” She actually has a credit card that says “Queen of the World” on it. As any benevolent ruler would, she decided to use her royal powers for good and founded a fundraising team of five grown women who have shamelessly donned ball gowns and crowns and raced in the Ski-A-Thon every year: The Queens of the World. Eight years later, they’ve raised roughly $40,000.
The royal outfits are fun, sure, but they also play an important role in raising awareness—a pack of five women racing down the slopes in formal attire catches people’s attention quickly. The chairlift fundraising conversation usually starts like this: “What’s it like to ski in a dress?” (According to my mom, “It’s hysterical.”) Then people ask “So… why are you skiing in a dress?” That’s when the Queens get down to business. “I don’t generally like asking for money,” my mom claims, “but this is easy because I believe so strongly in it and it’s so close to my heart.”
Once they’re done shredding in skirts, the Queens hit the deck. “We do the bulk of our fundraising before-hand, online and in person, but we also go to the Barker deck on the afternoon of the Ski-A-Thon. We get lots of attention and lots of donations because people are trying to figure out who these crazy women skiing in dresses are.” Last year, they received a $2,500 check on the spot from a man who had never heard of Maine Adaptive before that day.
The Queens do make a few sacrifices for fashion: “It’s a little difficult to get on the chairlift when you’re wearing a hoop skirt.” And then there’s always this issue: “One of my teammates, who likes to deviate from the theme and sometimes takes it too literally, dressed up as the Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a ship, so she built a boat around herself. That was interesting getting on and off the chairlift.”
The Ski-A-Thon has a different theme each year, which the Queens try to adhere to while still being royally garbed. My mom’s favorite year was Disco-themed; the Queens dressed as “Dancing Queens” and rocked some pretty spectacular 70s looks. This year’s Ski-A-Thon is a trip to the Wild West with a Snowdeo, and the Queens are “all over it. Chaps are going to be involved.” Teams will be photographed in the morning, the pictures will be put into a slide show, and costumes will be judged in the afternoon by the Ski-A-Thon participants using an “applause-o-meter.” Sounds like the Queens have even more reason to go all-out.
There are a million stories of how Maine Adaptive has changed people’s lives, and my mom has one of her own. A few years ago, she loaded the chairlift with my sister, who was 17 at the time, and a man from the singles line. They were right behind an adaptive skier and his helpers, so, sensing a fundraising opportunity, my mom started to tell the other chairlift passenger about Maine Adaptive.
The man listened, nodded politely, and then said, “I know all about Maine Adaptive. That’s my son ahead of us.” Apparently, his son had suffered a seizure with complications severe enough to seemingly ensure that he would never be able to ski on the day he was born. My mom suddenly remembered giving birth to each one of her kids, and how she’d had a video playing in her head each time of all of us together on the slopes as a family. According to her, “I realized that Maine Adaptive had leveled that playing field between me and this man. His son was also 17, so sitting next to my 17-year-old daughter and seeing his 17-year-old son on the mountain was very cool. It cemented that this is my cause.”
This year’s Ski-A-Thon Snowdeo will take place on Saturday, March 19. Festivities will include the infamous costume contest, live music and dancing, a barrel race, massages from the Maine Sports Massage Team, adaptive equipment demos, Eddy and Betty the Yeti sightings, frying pan throwing and lasso contests, breakfast and lunch at CAMP, and an après-ski celebration in the Grand Summit Ballroom. There are already over 55 teams registered (roughly 10 of which have been raising money since the very first Ski-A-Thon back in 1985) and needless to say, there’s usually some good-natured competition between teams.
To register your own fundraising team of up to 5 people, go to maineadaptive.org. Each team must raise a minimum of $1,000 to participate; each participant will receive a lift ticket for the day, a commemorative event shirt, and prizes for reaching (and exceeding) fundraising goals. Look for the Queens while you’re out on the slopes—they’ll be around, waving royally from the chairlift and using their powers for a really, really great cause.