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Finding Hope on the Slopes

Chillin' on the slopes

“ It is unbelievable how Make-A-Wish can turn a medical issue into a fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience. ”

- Nathan

Who is to say you can’t be uplifted by a downward slope? Although 18-year-old Nathan has a congenital heart defect, he loves skiing. He especially admires Olympic bronze medalist Nick Goepper, who has also won three gold medals and one silver medal at the Winter X games slope-style contest. The perfect wish for this ski enthusiast? To travel to wonderful Colorado state and ski with his favorite free-style skier. Bright and early on a January morning, Nathan and his family departed on a direct flight, traveling from the Keystone State to Colorado’s Keystone Resort. Since Nathan is studying to be an air traffic controller, the pilots generously invited him to sit in the cockpit, giving Nathan an insight on steering in the sky.

Nathan with Olympic bronze medalist freeskier Nick GoepperThe royal treatment began as soon as Nathan and his family arrived in Colorado. When they reached the Keystone Resort, they were welcomed into a three-bedroom condo, where gifts awaited Nathan and his family. Nathan was given a backpack filled with special gear: a sweatshirt, water bottle, and other goodies.

The next day, Nathan lived out his aspiration on the alps. First, Nathan met with Nick and his crew for some exclusive photo opportunities and exceptional ski time. Nick even made certain that he and Nathan would get a one-on-one ski session, without the accompanying entourage. By Nathan’s request, Nick performed some of his favorite free-style tricks; he even shot some impressive videos on Nathan’s go-pro camera for a keepsake, memory play-back.

Nathan was surprised by how different it was to ski at this resort. 

“The trails there are nothing like what we have in Pennsylvania," he said. "The snow has such a different feel and a smooth consistency; it was like skiing on the moon or something!”

In addition to spending the day on the slopes together, Nick autographed Nathan’s ski helmet, posed for personal photos, and even exchanged phone numbers. The family met Nick for a lovely lunch, where Nick graciously, and surprisingly, invited them back to his home for a hangout before their dinner at Big Horn. Nathan and his family chilled out in the mountains with Nick, his friends, and his father, creating unforgettable memories.

Although Nathan’s excitement already surpassed Colorado’s high elevation, he continued the next day with additional adventures. He went snow tubing, received a mountaintop tour on a snow-cat ride, dined on delicious meals, rode in a gondola, and of course, skied exceedingly. Nathan took home with him a new ski jacket, a new helmet, special snap-shots, and most importantly, memories of his marvelous time in the mountains. 

  • Nathan in the cockpit

  • Nathan and his family hanging out with Nick Goepper

  • Nick Goepper gives Nathan a ski lesson

  • Downhill skiing

  • Nathan at the Keystone Resort in Colorado

From the time that I met the volunteers, throughout the meetings and on my wish-trip, not once did they bring attention to my medical condition. They just made certain that I was having a good time. That is exactly what wish kids need: to focus on the fortunate times. ”

— Nathan

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