The Columbia Falls Special Olympics team has 10 new pairs of snowshoes, thanks to the efforts of junior high student Hope McAtee and Sportsman & Ski Haus of Kalispell.
McAtee, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Columbia Falls Junior High School, has been spending much of her time working with school’s special education students and the Special Olympics program since last year and was looking for a way to help the program as part of a project for her advanced studies class.
“A lot of kids are building robots and one person is trying to make edible plastic, but I wanted to go in a different direction,” McAtee said about her project. “I worked with the special education kids last year, but this year I wanted to do even more.”
As part of her extended studies class in sixth grade, McAtee spent 20 minutes to an hour every day helping special education students with their vocational jobs, such as wiping down tables, straightening chairs or doing laundry. When she learned of the Special Olympic team’s need for snowshoes, she leapt at the chance to make it her new project.
“I knew they had snowshoes, but they were not in the best shape and did not work very well,” she said. “I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
After submitting a formal donation request to Sportman & Ski Haus in Kalispell, McAtee was informed that the store would be donating 10 Yukon Charlie snowshoe kits, which include snowshoes, poles and carrying cases. Each kit retails for $64.99.
“Ms. McAtee submitted a very professional request to us for assistance and we were more than happy to help her with this very worthwhile project,” Sportsman & Ski Haus Advertising Manager Muriel Everly said.
The donation could not have come at a better time as the Special Olympic team will be in competition in Whitefish this week.
In addition to the snowshoes, the Sportsman Ski Haus continues to be a major supporter of the Wildcat Special Olympics by providing free rentals for practice each week. The team has practiced seven times leading up to this week’s games, with the store preparing gear for all 28 athletes and volunteers before each practice.
Wildcat Special Olympic coach Kate Daniels said she is grateful for McAtee’s help and is hoping to partner with her for more projects in the future.
“We are very thankful for Hope’s thoughtful independent studies project and look forward to having her volunteer with us even more in the future,” she said.