Meet the Athletes

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Meet Jesse!

Jesse has been active outdoors for many years as a Nordic skier, snowshoer, trail runner, and single scull rower.  Hiking has been a focus for almost 50 years!  Working time was spent teaching and as a neuro rehabilitation trainer.

 

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Meet Emma & Dan!

Emma and Dan Perritano are from Erie, PA. They have been long distance walking and competing together for almost ten years. Since 2014, their journeys have taken them all over the country, including walks across the entire states of Colorado, Vermont, and Pennsylvania in Emma’s customized running chair. Emma had a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after birth. She has cerebral palsy, experiences seizures, is non-verbal, and has other developmental delays. All that aside, Emma is happy, communicative, and joyous. Together, Emma and Dan have laughed, suffered, cried, competed, and walked thousands of miles. Their story is compelling and has helped various nonprofit organizations raise thousands of dollars along the way.

 

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Meet Sami

Sami is so excited that this will be her third year participating in the Sunrise Ascent on Mt. Washington.  In preparation for Sunrise, Sami enjoys hiking in The Whites.  She has hiked eight of NH's 48 4,000 foot mountains so far!

 

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Meet Jacques

The 2024 Sunrise Ascent will be Jacques' third consecutive year as an athlete. Now 15 years old, he says he wants to be a nature guide like his mom. He actually started guiding when he was 4 years old, cheering on paddlers during a canoe trip, and another time waving his arm to a hiking group from France as he sat upon his mother's shoulders, saying with a smile, "Come on, ladies!" He enjoys socializing, making connections between resources and people, and helping people the best he can. He is an encourager of all things good and brings joy to his teammates on the long haul up Mount Washington each year.

 

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Meet Erik

I moved to the Mt. Washington Valley to teach adaptive skiing at Attitash in 2005 and never left. Now I’m a paraprofessional in special ed at Kennett High School in Conway. I’ve been handcycling for about as long as I’ve lived in The Valley.  With some advances in bike tech, I thought it might be possible to climb the Auto Road on a road handcycle. It’s been done on off-road handcycles and with e assist, but my goal last summer was to do it on my own faster than other unassisted handcyclists. I underestimated how tough that road is though. By a lot. I made it about four miles up on my own before relying some on my hikers, Holderness Academy students I know from skiing.

This year I should have some lower gearing, some experience, and a year of training on Zwift. There’s no road like the Auto Road on the East Coast but the online cycling platform has some virtual rides that get close. I’m not 100% I can go all the way under my own power, but I expect to get closer to the top this year.  

 

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Meet Blair

Hi! I’m Blair and I am excited to make my fourth Sunrise Ascent this year.  I’ve lived with a TBI since I was three years old. That was a long time ago, in a time when there wasn’t much expectation that I would survive, never mind thrive.

That’s why I am passionate about ASPNC’s mission to inspire people like me. Thanks to its programming, I do activities year-round, from golf and gardening to hiking and cross-country skiing, with a little boccia thrown in the mix.  I’ve been involved with ASPNC for over 14 years, and I feel like I’ve found my people. I enjoy the camaraderie, companionship, especially the laughs, and most importantly, the opportunities to be outside, to be challenged, and to be comfortable.

A year ago, I lost my mom, who was my biggest cheerleader, and I am again dedicating my Sunrise Ascent in her memory because, simply, she never gave up on me and because of her, I can do so many things.

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Meet Malachy

My name is Malachy Duffy.  I am a musician, teacher, and adventurer.  I overcame spinal cancer in 2018, although it left me with nerve damage in my spine from radiation treatments.  When I heard about the Sunrise Ascent last year, I was hooked.  A chance to hike Mt. Washington again after all these years and raise money for adaptive sports?  Sign me up.  In my free time, I enjoy playing with my band, Captain Sunbeam, out of Boston.

 

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Meet Jason

Jason Jones is a father, Veteran, adaptive athlete, and fighter.  He is a Navy Veteran, originally from Texas, but he fell in love with Vermont after attending Norwich University.  Jason was diagnosed with ALS in December 2015 and has been fighting the good fight ever since.  He has four kids, three daughters and a son, and is a single dad.  His goal is to fight, support ALS research, and continue to live each day, full of life.  Adaptive sports have given him the opportunity to continue to do all the activities he loves with his friends and family.  He bikes, hikes, hunts, fishes. paddles, skis, and enjoys all the equipment available to him to make this possible.  His goal is to live to see his youngest son graduate high school.

 

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Meet Meghan

Meghan E. Fitzgerald is 37, has a great smile, loves to eat & enjoy new adventures.  She has been non-verbal, requires a wheelchair for mobility & needs one-on-one assistance for daily activities her entire life.  Despite her physical challenges she loves the outdoors, music, her dog Zeus and family time.  Meghan participated in several Vermont Remembers 10K races after 9/11 with her Dad pushing her in her wheelchair then a Jogger when he was still in the Army.  Meghan has been skiing at Cochran's Ski Area in Richmond, VT and at Jay Peak Resort & Ski Area (in the Spring when it's warmer).  She recently tried indoor climbing at Petra Cliffs.  Meghan & her Dad are looking forward to the Sunrise Ascent at MT Washington, NH in late July.

The Sunrise Ascent on Mt. Washington…where do I even begin?  The morning after what would have been our first ever Sunrise Ascent, I was scheduled to get in the car solo and head down to North Carolina.  I’d accepted a nursing job at Duke University Medical Center and was bidding New Hampshire winters goodbye.  Mike, Sasha and the dog would follow a couple of weeks later after I got settled.  What a month August of 2015 was shaping up to be!

As the move got closer, I had reservations.  Mike had really started to enjoy not on the successes of his newly launched real estate career, but also the connections and community he was growing in the industry. Equally so, I was feeling such deep affinity, and incredible good fortune, for the community I was finding in Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country.

In 2013, a nursing school classmate strongly urged me to reach out to Adaptive Sports Partners after asking me how Sasha was doing.  I expressed that her hyperactivity was a huge challenge, but outdoor recreation, which I thought her stamina and energy levels would benefit from, were out of reach, especially due to her severe cognitive delays and lack of safety awareness.  She talked to me in detail of an organization I’d never heard of and, while I found myself skeptical that Sasha could actually engage, I was curious to at least learn more.  I picked up the phone to call the founding Director of ASPNC, Sandy Olney.

I was overwhelmingly impressed with the thorough intake process and knowledge that Sandy exhibited in our phone call, along with the vast array of sports and equipment Sasha could be exposed to.  It felt incredibly adventurous but with safety as a core tenet.  Since I had been a hiking enthusiast in college 15 years prior, we decided that hiking would be a great place to start.  That first magical hike together with Sasha led to a conversation about the Sunrise Ascent on Mt. Washington.  I was enthralled and knew I wanted that experience for us both.

In the spring of 2015, I started weekly hikes with ASP as part of their seasonal programming while Sandy began building the first “Team Sasha”, reaching out to many veteran volunteers so we’d have a strong, seasoned and knowledgeable crew.    We grew to well over 20 teammates, some of whom I would not meet until the morning of the big hike.  It was such an exciting time of renewal, a whole world had opened up to us both.  Sasha was included in a community of outdoor enthusiasts who wanted her to experience the beauty of the outdoors and spirit of adventure just like anyone else.  The selflessness and genuine commitment of these remarkable individuals overwhelmed me.  About 10 days before the Sunrise Ascent on Mt. Washington in 2015, I reached out to Duke University asking if I could push out my start date.  I needed more time to wash through what I was leaving behind and to honor the remarkable experience Sasha was about to have.   Duke understandably said “no”, that my start date was non-negotiable.  I took that as my sign to stay put and explore much more with Adaptive Sports Partners and the new community of special friendships that would blossom for many years to come.

We’ve successfully hiked 5 out of our 8 Sunrise Ascents since then, each year building a new team of incredible strangers and seeing many familiar faces alongside Sasha.  Watching the sun come up from virtually the same exact spot of the mountain each and every year never tires.  During those four or so hours, time and the world stand still.  Now I am quite the talkative one, but there is always a moment during our climb when the “clip-clop” of our hiking shoes fall into unison, and I quietly marvel at the commitment of these 20 – 30 people giving all of their tremendous energy and time for Sasha and I to experience the unparalleled.

I will forever tell people the Sunrise Ascent on Mt. Washington was my first, and so far sole, “Maslow Moment”…a peak experience psychologist Maslow speaks of that is a quest, whether conscious or not, for us to fully develop as human beings.

This year, as Sasha’s stamina started to wane and her daily presentations became highly varied, I knew deep in my gut that we needed to take a hiatus from the Sunrise Ascent on Mt. Washington.  We will be there in spirit, fundraising and cheering with the same enthusiasm we always have for the beloved organization that feels like home.