In The News
Cheryl Jensen made the Vail Veterans Program the ‘gold standard’; now she’s shifting gears
VAIL — There might not be a Vail Veterans Program if not for Heath Calhoun.
It was 2004 and the Vail Veterans Program was so new it didn’t have a name. Like anything else, the work and serendipity began long before the actual start date.
Capt. Dave Rozelle was in Vail with some congressmen in 2003, when he met Cheryl Jensen. Jensen had been in Washington for about a month, helping the Department of Defense coordinate shipping tens of thousands of retired ski patrol/ski instructor uniform coats and snow pants to impoverished, cold weather spots around the world. While she was in DC, she learned about all the injuries our men and women were suffering fighting in the Middle East.
She had this idea to bring them to Vail to ski, and like all great ideas it wouldn’t leave her alone.
“I told him of the idea during our first meeting in Vail,” Jensen said. “He said, ‘Great, you raise the money and organize it and I will get you wounded warriors from Walter Reed.’”
Rozelle packed a bunch of guys and they headed to Vail. They skied, they laughed, they lived it up.
“I don’t know why you did this for us, but you changed my life,” he said.
Calhoun is now an elite adaptive athlete, a silver medal-winning Paralympic skier, and a motivational speaker.
“I thought, ‘Well, we might be onto something.’ I often wonder what would have happened if he had not said that,” Jensen said.
It was supposed to be a one-week, one-time deal. It wasn’t, and the Vail Veterans Program was born. The rest is history.