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How Allies Help Me Go for Gold as a Snowboarder With Disabilities

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Ally. What do you think of when you hear the term “ally”? You may think of friends and family. To me personally, an ally is anyone (including animals) who provides emotional support, who supports your choices, and supports your big dreams! Allies may consist of particular family members, like a mom who fights for her son with ADHD and cerebral palsy to receive a fair education in a private school; a friend taking time to tutor you in math after your first major CP-based ankle reconstructive surgery; or a teacher who notices your struggle on exams, caused by ADHD and a processing disorder, and allows you extended time during recess. We make allies throughout our lives, beginning during our childhood.

Have you ever noticed the amount of characters in children’s movies who must rely on allies to accomplish their overall goals? For example, Buzz Lightyear becomes Woody’s ally in the film “Toy Story.” Woody and Buzz must rely on one another to find their way back to their owner Andy, back to their friends, and ultimately to return home. In addition to Woody and Buzz, Marlin and Dory from the acclaimed children’s film “Finding Nemo” become allies on their journey to find Marlin’s son Nemo. I adore this pair of allies because each time Marlin’s anxiety sparks, Dory eloquently calms Marlin and reminds him to continue on their journey to defy all odds in search of Nemo. Dory goes as far as to serenade Marlin with a tune for perseverance, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” During my latest snowboard Slalom and Giant Slalom races, I relied on my allies, on my Dories.

Let’s start with my mom and my sister, my two largest allies. I would not be competing in the U.S. Snowboard and Freeski Association (Snowboard Slalom and Giant Slalom) this winter if I didn’t have their support, and I definitely wouldn’t be writing this blog about my cerebral palsy and ADHD journey. The drive to my latest races took well over an hour and yet my mom drove me anyway. We both awoke around 6 a.m. and made the trek to the ski resort. I’m 27 years old and yet having the support of my mom on race day gave me immense comfort. Before my snowboard races, my mom accompanied me to the registration booth and to pick up my race bib. She stood beside me and I could tell she was awfully proud of my accomplishments and for pushing myself to race competitively with my cerebral palsy. My mom even walked me to the chair lift to see me off; I could feel the overwhelming support.

On the chair lift ride to the top of the mountain, I felt the urge to call my second biggest ally, my younger sister, who competed in the U.S. Snowboard and Freeski Association (women’s snowboard) last year and will be competing at the U.S. Nationals this year. “Catherine, I’m nervous about today’s slalom race, conditions aren’t quite ideal today,” I shared with my sister. She simply reminded me to imagine myself competing at the U.S. Nationals and be strong. The time had come for my first slalom race. I approached the start gate and plugged in my ear buds with some pump-up jams. The race gate judge glared up at me, “Racer ready in 3…2…1…go!” I launched myself down the course thinking, “Nationals! Nationals!” Upon crossing the finish line, I heard the announcer come over the loud speaker, “Dave White Jr. coming in at a fast 32 seconds!” I couldn’t believe it; about a full 10 seconds faster than my previous race time!

Before my first snowboard Giant Slalom race, I chatted with another competitor, we’ll call her Sarah, who competed with my sister last year at the U.S. Nationals. Seeing a familiar face warmed my heart and comforted my possible anxieties. Sarah’s been competing in Slalom and Giant Slalom Snowboarding for roughly 20 years. I felt comfortable in asking her for any tips on the course and confiding that I have ADHD and cerebral palsy.

The time to line up for my Giant Slalom race arrived. Once again I approached the start gate and put my ear buds in; I felt confident. I looked at the race gate judge, “Racer ready in 3…2…1…GO!” Although I was amped for the race, I quickly realized there were large ruts in the snow around the gates caused by the Slalom races. My momentum quickly increased and all was smooth until about halfway through the course. Coming around a gate on my heel-side, my board hit a large rut in the snow and I skidded out briefly. Luckily I recovered quickly, but my ADHD-based anxiety rapidly increased. At the bottom, Sarah automatically recognized my increased anxiety and similar to my mom and sister, Sarah comforted me. With the support of my new ally, on my next Giant Slalom race, I swiftly maneuvered throughout the gates and finished with an impressive time!

Thanks to my allies, I won Gold in both my Slalom and Giant Slalom races! All competitors, family and friends attended the awards ceremony. I sat with my mom and my new ally, Sarah. The series director announced all winning competitors. Finally I heard, “Senior Men’s Division, gold medal goes to Dave White Jr., competing to promote cerebral palsy and ADHD!” I approached the director, he placed the gold medal around my neck, and I stood atop the first place podium, absolutely proud. As I overlooked the crowd holding up the shaka and peace sign, I noticed an incredible moment. I had an entire room of allies applauding my accomplishment! That moment was like no other. As a kid with ADHD and cerebral palsy, I could not have pictured that moment any better.

Think about the allies in your life. Thank them today for being there for you, for supporting you, for loving you.

Follow Dave’s journey on his blog.

Originally published: February 19, 2018
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