On May 2, 2018 Kootenay Business Magazine held their sixth annual award ceremony. This event recognized outstanding members of business, including the Top 40 Under 40, and the Most Influential Women in Business. Over 65 women were nominated for the aforementioned award, representing the Kootenay’s from areas such as Cranbrook, Kimberley, Invermere, Fairmont, Fernie, and Sparwood. Three women were to be selected out of the 65 nominated to represent the Kootenay’s Most Influential Women in Business for 2018. Of the three honoured with this award was Fernie native Grace Brulotte, recognized for her work with FIRE: Fernie Adaptive Snow Program.
Brulotte is the president and program manager for FIRE, a program which allows individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy snow sports at Fernie Alpine Resort. This growing and successful program of over 40 members was dreamed up by Brulotte after her first skiing experience at the age of 14. After falling in love with the sport, Brulotte ultimately decided that she was going to bring adaptive skiing to Fernie, something that had yet to be accomplished in the area. Brulotte describes the first two years of founding FIRE as “a series of ups and downs”. Her first year of trying to bring this about ultimately ended in failure, which Brulotte says made her question her willingness to continue. The then 15 year old knew she lacked experience, but her desire to see her goal fulfilled drove her forward. “I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try again, so I did. The failure ended up fuelling my passion to succeed. I was also only 16 years old when I became the president and program manager for FIRE, so I constantly felt as though I wasn’t qualified for my new responsibilities. But I learned it’s best to view challenges and failure as an opportunity to grow. If you keep in mind that it’s OK to fail—as long as you get up and try again—then every experience becomes an opportunity to learn.”
After two years of hard work, FIRE officially opened in 2013, becoming the first adaptive snow program to operate at Fernie Alpine Resort. The program started with humble beginnings, boasting five students and nine instructors. Brulotte looks back on opening day of the program as the first time she saw the tangible results of her work. “That was the day it really hit me that we did it, we had made it through the most difficult part, and we’d only grow from there.” Six years later FIRE has experienced tremendous growth, having over 20 students and 30 instructors. Brulotte volunteers her time as program manager, which she describes as a full time job in the winter season. “I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way”, said Brulotte in regards to her volunteer work. “It’s hard not to find joy in the smiles I see on our students as they experience new things and conquer their challenges. Nothing is more rewarding than knowing the impact this program has on the lives of our instructors, students, and their families.“
Despite her physical disability and her youth, Brulotte believes the key to her journey of success was largely due to her life motto of never giving up. This spirit has led her to her newest project, the Canadian Adaptive Network. Through CAN, whose vision is to promote disability as a variation of the human experience, Brulotte hopes to see a shift in perspective towards those with disabilities, as well as an increase in inclusive activities throughout the community. “I am proud to be Vice President of such a powerhouse organization that is sure to impact many lives” says Brulotte. “It is so important for society to recognize that those with disabilities are able to do anything they put their minds to.” Brulotte, as well as the other members of CAN, are excited to be hosting the second annual Disability Awareness Night, an evening of great food, inspirational movies and speeches, and a silent auction to rival them all. This event will be a fundraiser to support CAN in its future endeavours to create a more inclusive and accessible environment for those with disabilities. Tickets include a full meal prepared by Max Restaurant at the Park Place Lodge, the community premiere of “I’mPossible” and other inspirational films, special guest speakers, and a silent auction with items donated by local Fernie businesses. This unforgettable night is not to be missed!
Purchase tickets to the Fernie Disability Night here.