Welder, plumber, firefighter, damage control professional, Winter Sports Clinic attendee and self-proclaimed “Bedazzler,” Gayle-Jayne Allyson is an Army and Coast Guard Veteran.
She served from 1987 to 1997 and is not only unstoppable, but unmistakable. With her bright red lipstick and sparking green eyes, she is as colorful as her self-jeweled motorized chair, complete with an amputee Wonder Woman bear strapped to the back.
Allyson with her best friend and caregiver Lisa Button.
After six years, Allyson is returning to National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado, for her second time. The first time she participated, she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, additional medical issues led to the amputation of her right leg and, a year later, part of her right hip.
Reminds people “It’s not over yet!”
“When I had my amputation two years ago, I thought, ‘I’ll get a prosthetic. I see people doing stuff all the time. I’ll learn how to walk again,’” Allyson said. “But then last year, when they removed my hip, I knew there was no chance of prosthetic. I wondered what was next since I’d be in a wheelchair after I worked so hard to be out of it.”
Allyson, who receives care at Cleveland VA, said it was important for her to come to Winter Sports Clinic again as an amputee because events like this remind people that “It’s not over yet.” Flying down the mountain in a bi-ski for the first time Monday reminded her that she can still participate in life, just differently.
“A disability doesn’t define us. It is just a part of us,” she said. “If you set your limits really low, you are not going to do a doggone thing. You’ll close up inside yourself. If I can get to Colorado on a plane and go skiing, I can certainly travel closer to home to do other things I want to do.”
“You have to lift each other up.”
Accompanied by her good friend and caregiver, Lisa Button, Allyson said she felt Button had also learned from the experience. She has now seen what other Veterans are capable of doing on their own.
In addition to skiing, Allyson will also participate in snowmobiling and sled hockey. Beyond that, she looks forward to supporting others while making connections.
“You have to lift each other up because we miss being with our squad or company,” Allyson added.
The 36th National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic is a world-leader in adaptive winter sports instruction. It is co-hosted by Disabled American Veterans and VA, and was held in Snowmass, Colorado, through April 1.