By Mary Guiliano

Sixteen years ago I wrote about the birth of Grace Brulotte. At the time arthrogryposis, a condition that stiffens body joints, was little known to the general public. Grace tells me it affects one in 3,000 live births. The community knows Grace well. Others may get gloomy about a bad day but for Grace each day is a bad day full of challenges. Grace is fiercely independent, apart from on her specialized wheelchair. Grace may be physically challenged but she has a quick, bright mind and is a pleasure to speak with. Articulate and knowledgeable about her condition and the latest project she founded.

Grace and ScottGrace with Coach Scott Courtemanche

FIRE, Fernie Inspire the Race to Empower is the sit-ski program now available at Fernie Alpine Resort. Two years ago she was feeling emotionally down, “trapped, like a hobbit” she says with a smile. Her friend Katy Gibbs from Invermere told her she needed to try sit-skiing, saying it was simply amazing. Grace recalled how during ski days in school there was nothing for her so when she was told about this and discovered that there wasn’t anything available in Fernie she went to Kimberley. Instructors Nip Bradford and Steve Norton took her out. “When I first saw it I was skeptical, I was scared but the instructor said too bad, I needed that first push to get past my fears. I really needed to step out of my comfort zone.

The instructors were very enthusiastic in getting me in the sit-ski. Usually I feel like a have a 400 pound weight strapped to my butt, but with this what I experienced was a freedom from being disabled, something I never experienced before, a feeling of happiness, of being really free. I feel like I can fly, a release I don’t get often. My muscles tense but I can relax emotionally. I don’t have to worry about my life or my problem, this makes me face my fears. Although I was strapped in it didn’t feel like it. I fell in love with sit skiing. With some kids the instructor holds onto a bar in the back to direct the sit-ski, but they can also hold on to tethers, sort of like a horse. In my case I can tip my head from side to side to steer the sit ski.” Grace mentions how instructor Allan Watson takes her on steep inclines and off jumps. “I am terrified but happy; it’s like scuba diving in powder.” It didn’t take long to find volunteers like Scott Courtemanche and Jennifer Gross.

The program is for those with any type of disability. For more information contact Grace at 250-430-1996 or at grace.brulotte@hotmail.com

Follow Grace on her blog: Disabled and Living in the Real World