The Winter Games, being held January 29th through February 5th, will feature 151 USA athletes competing against other Special Olympics athletes from around the world. Team USA will compete in Alpine Skiing Cross Country Skiing, Snowboarding, Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Floor Hockey and, of course, Snowshoeing.
More than four million Special Olympics athletes train and compete in more than 170 nations across the globe.
This year, thanks to the efforts of Rose Jones and Maggie Dittburner, many of the USA Special Olympics Snowshoe Team members will be competing in Redfeather Snowshoes.
“It all started with just a telephone call and conversation with Maggie Dittburner,” said Jones, who leads the Customer Service team at Redfeather Snowshoes in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Dittburner is the Central Regional Manager of Sports Training for Special Olympics Illinois, and she was looking for American made snowshoes for the USA Special Olympics Illinois snowshoe racers. “We’ve got a bit of a soft spot in our hearts for people with disabilities, and so we put together a special program for her.”
Word spread of that special program from Redfeather, and soon the Redfeather Snowshoe phone lines were buzzing with calls from parents and coaches of Special Olympics athletes from all over the country. “We were, and are, very honored that they called, and so glad that we could outfit team members.” Jones said.
That “soft spot” in Redfeather’s heart that Jones refers to comes naturally. Redfeather Snowshoes is a division of ORC Industries in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities through employment opportunities.” And a part of that employment opportunity is making Redfeather Snowshoes. 75 percent of ORC Industries’ work force consists of people with a mental or physical disability. In addition to providing gainful employment, ORC Industries also provides nutritional counseling, pre-vocational training, vocational rehabilitation, wellness training, daily life skills training, and outplacement services.
Whether it’s making Redfeather Snowshoes at ORC or running in them for Team USA at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, it appears that ORC Industries has had an impact on a variety of very special people.