Special to the Sun-Gazette
SEVEN SPRINGS - When Charlie Dunn arrived at Seven Springs Mountain Resort for some family fun recently, he said the trip arranged by the Wounded Warrior Patrol was the nicest thing anybody had done for him since 1968.
Dunn, a veteran of the Vietnam War who was able to bring his two adult children to the resort, is one of 11 veterans whose families were invited to take part. The special event is designed to thank the veterans, their spouses and their children for their service and their corresponding sacrifices.
Wounded Warrior Patrol Chief Executive Officer Chris Raup said participants came from as far away as Chicago to hit the slopes and enjoy all the outdoor and indoor activities the resort has to offer.
"We've had some very powerful moments here," Raup said.
The Wounded Warrior Patrol is a nonprofit organization built on the ties between the U.S. military and the National Ski Patrol. Many Wounded Warrior Patrol members are veterans and ski patrollers, but membership is open to anyone who would like to help injured veterans. The ability to ski is not a requirement.
Seven Springs spokeswoman Anna Weltz said when Raup and his team approached the resort a couple of years ago about hosting wounded veterans, agreeing to do so was a "no-brainer." Because of the family-friendly nature of the event, Weltz said it seemed like a perfect fit for Seven Springs.
"It's a really fun group, and it's a great way for us to thank the veterans for their service and sacrifice, along with their wives and families ..." Weltz added. "We are going to make it a tradition for sure.
"We want each family to leave the resort with a lifelong memory of the time they enjoyed together," said Robert Nutting, president of Seven Springs Mountain Resort. "Our partnership with the Wounded Warrior Patrol has provided us with a tremendous opportunity to honor these soldiers and their families for their services and sacrifice."
This year's participants hail from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Illinois. Their family getaways - offered this week from Sunday through Thursday - feature skiing and snowboarding, lessons, special spa services, celebratory dinners and more. Applications for the trip were accepted from September through December. Raup said applicants' background and family information were taken into consideration before 15 were selected with 11 ultimately able to attend. He said those people and their families made up a diverse group. Some served in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Dunn served in Vietnam.
Raup pointed out that some were injured in combat, but at least one was injured after returning home when he was struck by a drunk driver while refueling his motorcycle alongside the road.
He said the trip to Seven Springs gives veterans a chance to interact with fellow military members who may share their trials, tribulations and successes. And Raup noted that next year's trip to the resort already is scheduled for late February.
"The Wounded Warrior Patrol was formed based on the desire to pay it forward to our wounded warriors of this generation, as well as to their family members, by encouraging their participation in our winter sports program," said Raup, a retired National Guard major.
"For two years now, Seven Springs has rolled out the red carpet and generously provided so much for our warriors, their families, our board and our 60-plus volunteers. As we looked into selecting a location for this event, we knew that a place focused on families was essential and Seven Springs was the ideal location. The Seven Springs team is amazing and really goes out of their way to care for our warrior families. To sum it up, Seven Springs has a way of making you feel like you are at home."
Among the more than 60 volunteers are National Ski Patrol members and instructors from Three Rivers Adaptive Sports, who assist the soldiers and their families.