Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
ELIZABELL "WILLIE" WILLIAMS 1931 - 1991
Inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame 1996
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Willie, as she was affectionately known by her "kids", was born in Lockhard, Texas and raised in San Antonio. The Rockies drew her to Colorado, when she came to Colorado to work as a nurse for the Children's Hospital in Denver.
It was Willie's love for children that led her to coordinate a skiing program, with the assistance of Children's Hospital, for young patients with limb amputations. The first class of 17 boys was held at Arapahoe Basin in January, 1968, with the help of Willy Schaeffler and Ski School head, Ed Lucks. Willie also recruited the volunteers to assist in this program. Those volunteers, with Willie's leadership created what has become the model most disabled programs are based upon today.
To quote Willie, "How can a child consider himself handicapped when he can ski as well or better then his two-legged friends? They can ski circles around me. Their smiling faces and determined attitudes say more than words could ever express."
With this attitude behind her, she forged on. She approached the ski industry for help and was given overwhelming support in supplying ski equipment.
In 1970-71, the Three Track Ski Club moved to the Winter Park Ski Area, where Hal O'Leary took on the challenge. This was the beginning of the internationally acclaimed National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD). Willie and Hal developed and trained skiers who eventually became World Champions in disabled skiing.
Willie pursued her commitment to disabled skiing, and as the program grew, she was involved in many national events, culminated in 1980 when she accompanied the US Disabled Team to the International Winter Paralympics in Geilo, Norway.
She was also instrumental in producing three instructional and inspirational films featuring skiing and outdoor recreational activities for children with physical disabilities.
Fortunately through the NSCD, and the support of Winter Park, her vision lives on.