National Ability Center salutes heroes through inaugural online contest and its Field of Flags |

National Ability Center salutes heroes through inaugural online contest and its Field of Flags

National Ability Center started 30 years ago by offering skiing sessions for veterans. Since 2010 the nonprofit has honored veterans on Veteran's Day with a celebratory luncheon. This year, due to COVID-19, the celebration, which will be called Salute Your Hero, will be an online affair.
Courtesy of National Ability Center

For information about the National Ability Center’s Salute Your Hero contest and its nomination process, visit

The National Ability Center’s annual Saluting Our Heroes luncheon, which has become a tradition over the past decade, is changing this year.

The celebration that is usually held on Veterans Day at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City is pivoting into an inaugural online contest called Salute Your Hero, due to the novel coronavirus, said Carey Cusimano, NAC’s director of development.

“It became a reality to us that putting 650-plus people in one room isn’t the wisest thing to do, because many of the folks we do serve have compromised immune systems,” Cusimano said. “The last thing we want to do is jeopardize their health.”

Participating in Salute Your Hero is simple, according to Cusimano.

“We want members of the community to nominate their heroes, whether they are first responders, medical workers or veterans, for their sacrifices in serving our country,” she said.

Nomination forms, which are due by Oct. 30, are available at

“Nominees will be reviewed by National Ability Center teams, and, on Veterans Day, we announce two winners through email and the NAC’s social media accounts,” Cusimano said.

The winners will receive complimentary health-and-wellness trips to the National Ability Center Ranch.

The winners will enjoy the recognition with adaptable recreation sessions, meals and the chance to stay in the NAC’s lodge, Cusimano said.

“We’re already getting in some great stories and nominees,” she said. “And it’s to the point where we want to award every nomination that has come through the door.”

The Salute Your Hero plan came together in August, after more than five months of COVID-19 restrictions, Cusimano said.

“Salute Your Hero is still able to honor those who have served our country, and it also gives us the opportunity to reach out to our key partners and ask them for support,” she said.

In addition to Salute Your Hero, the National Ability Center will install the Field of Flags from Nov. 9-16 just outside of Miner’s Hospital at City Park.

“The display will feature more than 150 flags that will honor active military, veterans and first responders,” Cusimano said. “Community members can come out and view the beautiful flags and take a moment to think about and appreciate those who have sacrificed for them.”

Serving and honoring veterans is at the heart of the nonprofit’s mission, she said.

The NAC started 30 years ago with a $5,000 grant to fund ski lessons for veterans at Park City Mountain Resort.

Since then, the nonprofit’s reach has grown through year-round individual lessons, family camps and retreats and adventure programs that serve more than 1,500 veterans a year, according to Operations Manager Acasia Gibson.

These programs are about healing the veterans and their families, Cusimano said.

“They connect through a ropes course, or skiing at the resort,” she said. “Not only do we want our military participants to experience these things. We also come back and make outdoor recreation a part of their lives again.”

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Ability Center has been able to provide socially distanced programs for veterans and others of all abilities, Cusimano said.

“We are doing one-on-one programming, and have brought in many veteran groups,” she said. “We’re in a very isolated time, and we’re here to keep people connected and active.”

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