By Steve Hubrecht 

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A local woman has been honoured for her commitment to making sure everyone gets a chance to ski.

Earlier this year Toby Benches resident Catrien Dainard was named the volunteer of the year by Canadian Adaptive Snowsports.

Dainard founded and has been a key part of the Panorama Adaptive Sports Society (PASS) for nearly two decades, serving as an instructor, volunteer mentor and leader of the group, which strives to make winter and summer sports accessible for athletes who are differently abled either physically or cognitively.

“I’m over the moon excited for Catrien. It’s well deserved for her,” said fellow PASS member and longtime BC Adaptive Snowsports member Susan Hughes.

Hughes first met Dainard 18 years ago, when Dainard and Invermere resident Nicole Morgan founded PASS. As Hughes understands, the pair were upset to learn that when school groups visited Panorama Mountain Resort, some students with physical or cognitive disabilities couldn’t take part, owing to a lack of qualified adaptive instructors, and instead spent the day at home or at the library. Dainard and Morgan were friends growing up in Ontario before moving west and both worked at Panorama Mountain Resort when they first arrived in the Columbia Valley.

Hughes recalls that when Dainard found out that students weren’t skiing because of a lack of adaptive instructors “she said ‘we’re not having that’.” Dainard and Morgan set up PASS and took a course to become certified adaptive ski (CADS Level 1) instructors. The course was taught by Hughes, who was based in Vancouver at the time, but later moved to the Columbia Valley, inspired in part by what Dainard and Morgan have done with PASS.

Canadian Adaptive Snowsports Volunteer of the Year Catrien Dainard

“Catrien was and continues to be the foundation of this small but mighty adaptive program, which is well known in the snowsport communities of the East Kootenays,” explained Hughes, adding that saying Dainard is passionate about adaptive skiing is a tremendous understatement.

“There are no lessons or ski opportunities turned away with Catrien. I have witnessed her growth and commitment to PASS over the many years she has been involved,” said Hughes. “Catrien has the ability to relate to everyone she meets and is a master relationship builder. She is a true ambassador of adaptive snowsports and believes that everyone has the right and should have the opportunity to ski or snowboard. Catrien speaks with conviction and punctuates everything with a smile and a little laugh.”

Since 2006 PASS has grown by leaps and bounds, with the number of volunteers and athletes growing, with certification levels increasing, and with new sports and programs offered.

“She’s (Dainard) really made an impact. She is a doer in the true sense of the word, and she’s especially fun to work with,” Hughes told the Pioneer.

Morgan explained that running a small nonprofit group such as PASS always has challenges, but is very rewarding and she too said that Dainard “is beyond deserving of this award.”

Dainard is “an incredible human with a huge heart. She has a special gift of connecting people and resources, giving anyone the opportunity to experience a sense of freedom and fun in the mountains,” Morgan commented. “Over the last 18 years, she has helped lift the spirits of so many athletes, volunteers, coaches and their families.”

Morgan noted that the way PASS grows and evolves means Dainard is constantly on her toes, needing to find creative solutions.

“This season was a perfect example, we saw an increase in mid-week lesson requests and with a small volunteer base, it makes it very tricky to accommodate everyone. But, she (Dainard) made it happen, with the help of many wonderful volunteers and coaches,” said Morgan. “Her enthusiasm and belief in people has created this wonderful community of folks who want to share adventures in the mountains with those who need some extra help getting on the slopes. She never says ‘sorry we can’t make that happen for you’ or ‘we don’t have the volunteers to help today’.”