High Point girl relishes Make-A-Wish trip to ski resort

Mar. 31, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

You think Callie Golden doesn’t like the cold? When the 4-year-old High Point girl goes to the grocery store with her parents, she likes to open the freezer case, just to experience that frigid blast of air rushing at her.
“She calls it ‘a snowy day,’” Callie’s father, Nathan, says with a chuckle.
So you can imagine Callie’s delight when she learned she and her family would be going to Vermont — courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation — for an all-expenses-paid snow-skiing adventure.
“She really liked that idea,” says Callie’s mom, Christy. “She had a snowman on her birthday cake the last two years, so there’s a slight obsession there with snow.”
Callie, a preschooler at First United Methodist Church’s Child Enrichment program, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when she was about a year old. SMA, as it is referred to, is a motor neuron disease in which the muscles of the body waste away and eventually die. It is the number-one genetic cause of death in infants and toddlers, and while symptoms can be treated, there’s no cure for SMA.
Make-A-Wish, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, contacted the Golden family after learning of Callie’s disease. Once approved, the family began planning a trip to Smugglers’ Notch, a popular Vermont ski resort.
“We did a little research and found that this place has an adaptive ski program for a variety of disabilities,” Christy says. “It seemed like a perfect arrangement for Callie.”
Because of the progression of her SMA, Callie has lost almost all of her muscle strength in her arms and legs. She requires a power wheelchair to get around.
Initially, Make-A-Wish tried to time the trip to coincide with an abundance of snow in Vermont. Plans changed, though, when Callie became very ill in early February, which heightened the family’s sense of urgency.
“That really motivated us to go as soon as possible because of the close call she had,” Nathan says, explaining that what might be a routine sickness for most people can quickly escalate to dangerous proportions for Callie. “We just decided to go as soon as we could, whether there was a foot of snow on the ground or not.”
As it turns out, when the Goldens arrived at Smugglers’ Notch earlier this month, the weather was cold and rainy. The next day, though, the weather turned even colder, bringing a snowfall that continued for several days — perfect conditions for the family’s inaugural skiing adventure.
While Nathan, Christy and their three sons — Isaac, Ezra and Peter — learned to ski on traditional skis and snowboards, Callie used an adaptive unit called a bi-ski, which featured a molded bucket seat mounted on a pair of skis. The bi-ski included restraints and a head support, and Callie had her own personal instructor, specially trained, to swoosh down the slopes with her.
“She was even able to go back up on the ski lift,” Christy says. “It was adapted so she could get on the lift, just like everyone else.”
Predictably, Callie had a blast.
“She did not want to leave,” Christy recalls. “None of us wanted to leave, but she was so upset. She kept saying, ‘I wanna go ski!’ She absolutely loved it.”
In addition to skiing, the family enjoyed a sleigh ride at a nearby farm, visits to a local ice-cream parlor, and swimming in a heated pool.
But make no mistake, it was the snow that made Callie the happiest. Growing up in the snow-deprived Triad, she’s never had the opportunity to make a decent snow angel — something she has long talked about doing — but Vermont accommodated her.
“Whenever it snows here and she tries to make a snow angel, it winds up being a muddy mess,” Nathan says. “But after the second day there, we had plenty of snow. I was carrying her somewhere, and she mentioned wanting to make a snow angel, so we did it. I had to help her move her arms and legs, but we got it done.”
Christy laughs at the memory.
“Callie’s so light, she didn’t make much of an indention,” she says, “but she was happy with it. I think just the whole idea of lying down in the snow was what she wanted.”
Callie may not have made much of an impression in the snow, but judging from the smiles that show up in photo after photo from her trip to Vermont, the snow made quite an impression on her.
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579