Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ski for Light: Meeting John Olnes

After speaking with Sigurd Dalen, I also had the chance to speak with John Olnes, a Sons of Norway member from Alaska who has been part of the Ski for Light family since 1999.

John first got involved in Ski for Light 10 years ago when it was held in Anchorage. At the time he knew a visually impaired skier who was planning on taking part in the week-long event, but needed a guide. John, an avid cross-country skier, decided he was just the guy for the job and the rest is history. These days he's no longer guiding skiers, but has taken on the role of Trail Coordinator. It's now his job to set up the trails, place markers and help ensure that SFL is a top-notch event all week long.

When I asked him what his attraction to SFL is, John responded that "Being a Ski for Light guide is such a rewarding experience, and SFL is like a yearly family reunion. Every year we get together with old friends and make new ones, too. I'm going to do it for as long as I can!"

Because he's so passionate about the event, I next asked John about some of his most memorable moments from past years. The first thing that came to mind goes all the way back to the beginning--Anchorage in 1999. At that event, in addition to guiding his friend mentioned above, John also worked with another visually impaired person and taught her to ski. John told me about the first time he took her down a steep hill and how overjoyed she was when they reached the bottom. John was thanked with a bear hug and a memory he'll always take with him.

If you were to ask all SFL participants, past and present, I bet you'd hear thousands upon thousands of these same kinds of experiences and memories. This is why I'm so proud of Sons of Norway's long-time involvement in Ski for Light. When I mentioned that sentiment, John agreed and responded that Sons of Norway has always been a big help with volunteers and donations. In fact his lodge, Bernt Balchen 2-046, has a yearly wooden ski fundraiser where part of the proceeds are donated to Ski for Light.

If I remember right, something like 125 different lodges have made donations to Ski for Light this year. That's nearly a third of all Sons of Norway lodges; a great number to be sure. But right here, right now I challenge all the other lodges to consider what they might be able to do to help support such a worthwhile program next year.

Also, if your lodge is already a supporter I'd love it if you'd share your lodges program or fundraiser with everyone else. Please feel free to leave it in a comment here on the blog, or go to the Sons of Norway message boards and post it there. Share your success with others!

Ahh another successful, and fun-filled day has come to an end. Check back tomorrow for more updates!

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