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Fostering fun: Ski program builds lifelong passion

  • Alianna Morales smiles during her first ski trip at Berkshire East Ski Area in Charlemont.<br/>COURTESY OF KERRY HOMSTEAD<br/>

    Alianna Morales smiles during her first ski trip at Berkshire East Ski Area in Charlemont.
    COURTESY OF KERRY HOMSTEAD
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ashlynn Morales perfects her "snow plow" while skiing at Berkshire East Ski Area.<br/>COURTESY OF KERRY HOMSTEAD

    Ashlynn Morales perfects her "snow plow" while skiing at Berkshire East Ski Area.
    COURTESY OF KERRY HOMSTEAD Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alianna Morales smiles during her first ski trip at Berkshire East Ski Area in Charlemont.<br/>COURTESY OF KERRY HOMSTEAD<br/>
  • Ashlynn Morales perfects her "snow plow" while skiing at Berkshire East Ski Area.<br/>COURTESY OF KERRY HOMSTEAD

Years ago, social worker and Treehouse Community resident Wendy Gannett saw how learning to ski was therapeutic for her three adoptive children.

“Being good at something made them feel proud of themselves,” Gannett said. “Other organized sports were more difficult because they were shy and behind their age mates, but skiing was not in comparison to anyone but themselves.”

With that in mind, Gannett started a therapeutic skiing program this winter at the Treehouse Community, an intentional development off of Button Road where families with foster or adoptive children live along with senior citizens.

She contacted Berkshire East Ski Area owner Roy Schaefer and told him her plan, and he agreed to donate four ski sessions for up to 40 Treehouse residents and discounted equipment rentals.

“It worked just like I thought; the kids just absolutely loved it. It was a terrific success,” Gannett said. She said about 30 residents from kids to seniors headed to the Charlemont ski area for four Saturdays over the winter and learned the sport from volunteer instructors.

“For kids that have suffered many foster placements, abuse, starvation, and lack of stimulation, you can see why skiing is a great therapy,” she said. Having fun and mastering a skill can really help children feel better, she said.

“Therapy is good, but some research has shown that two things keep kids from delinquency: The first is having someone they trust and the other is being competent in something they care about, something fun,” she said.

After stopping at about 20 ski shops in Vermont earlier this month, she found a shop that agreed to donate used rental equipment to outfit every interested child at Treehouse for next ski season.

She hopes to continue the therapeutic ski program every winter, but she’s not stopping there.

“My hope is to start an organization called Fostering Fun that will provide foster kids with opportunities to do fun activities, so they can find something they’re passionate about,” she said.

Her plan is to find area volunteers willing to share their skills in sports or activities.

“Being a foster parent isn’t an option for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help a foster kid,” she said. “You could volunteer to help with the program, like maybe you know how to kayak and could teach it.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Gannett at or Kerry Homstead at Treehouse at (413) 527-7966.

Norris School roof

Voters last week approved $1.8 million to replace roof of the William E. Norris School at a special Town Election. The proposition 2½ override vote by ballot, required because the town will have to borrow the funds, was the final step to getting the project funded.

Voters last week supported the borrowing by a vote of 139 in favor to 19 opposed. Only 157 voters — 3.7 percent of the town’s 4,222 registered voters — turned out, Sandra Wickland, the town’s temporary co-clerk, said. She is filling in as co-clerk along with resident Katherine Ingram while Town Clerk Eileen Couture and Assistant Town Clerk Ruth Bernier are both out on sick leave.

“Yesterday’s vote is one more affirmation of the importance of education in Southampton,” Hampshire Regional School District Superintendant Craig Jurgensen said Tuesday. “It gives the project architect the green light to move ahead with engineering and design plans so that work can begin in late June.”

The leaky roof is being replaced with help from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which will reimburse the town for 55 percent of design and construction costs if the project is completed by Aug. 30. That means the state agency would pay an estimated $989,584 and the town would pay approximately $809,660.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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