For National Ability Center COO, there’s no such thing as limits
More than most, Kevin Stickelman identifies with the people the National Ability Center serves.
Stickelman was born without certain bones in his foot, and doctors amputated it when he was 15 months old. At 11, he learned to ski at an adaptive sports facility not unlike the NAC in northwestern Missouri. He fell in love with the sport and knew from then on that his disability could never stop him from chasing that passion. It proved to be one of the defining experiences of his life.
"Had it not been for the people and the instructors at that program," he said, "I may never have had the path in life that I did."
Years later, Stickelman is now hoping to help change the lives of others. The NAC, a non-profit that provides recreational and educational programs for people with disabilities, recently announced that he is set to take over as chief operating officer. He will bring years of experience from working in leadership positions in the ski industry — including at Park City Mountain Resort in the early 2000s — and from serving on the board of directors for Oregon Adaptive Sports, an organization similar to the NAC.
In many ways, he views his upcoming post as the perfect job.
"All of those things kind of combined into what seems like a pretty perfect opportunity at the National Ability Center, taking my experience in the ski industry, my passion for outdoors and recreation and my personal history, having only one foot," said Stickelman, who will finish the ski season at Lee Canyon ski resort in Las Vegas, where he is president and general manager, before reporting to the NAC. "And it’s also just the love my wife and I have for the Park City area. It couldn’t be much better than this job."
Stickelman is most looking forward to working at the NAC, however, because he knows what it means to the people who rely on it. He said it’s important that those with disabilities know they’re just as capable of partaking in outdoor activities as everyone else. And in many cases, the NAC’s work goes far beyond merely helping someone take their first ride down the slopes.
"Having a disability isn’t all about the things you physically can or can’t do or see or can’t see — it’s also how you feel," he said. "It’s self-esteem. I know a lot of people who have disabilities who have had to overcome a huge mindset of ‘My God, I’ve lost my sight,’ or, ‘I’ve lost my arm,’ or whatever it is, and that just mentally erodes them. The National Ability Center not only gets people to overcome adversity from a disability but also from the mental pressure that’s on an individual."
Gail Loveland, executive director of the NAC, said in a statement that the organization chose Stickelman because of his passion. She expects him to be a large part of the group’s future success.
"Kevin’s understanding of the NAC’s core operating values and the wealth of knowledge he brings from similar industries made him the standout candidate for this position," Loveland said. "His drive and passion for our program, as well as his insight with regard to fundraising and fiscal responsibility needed to direct a non-profit organization, will prove instrumental in enhancing what we offer the adaptive sports and recreation community."
When he takes his post, Stickelman will set about expanding the NAC’s influence and spreading the word even farther about what the organization offers. He knows firsthand what programs like the ones the NAC provides can mean to those who use them, and he wants others to find out.
"I’d really like to focus on telling their story," he said. "That’s one of the things that drew me to be interested in the organization, and I think it’s the story of the National Ability Center, the story of the people who work there, and I think it’s the story of the people who come there. Those are powerful messages that will draw other people to come and be involved."
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