Gene Ehlers, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
Organization profile

For over 30 years, BOEC has been working to give individuals with special needs the opportunity to enjoy nature.  Through summer programs involving canoeing, hiking, ropes courses, and rafting and winter programs such as guided skiing and snowboarding, the organization helps people push their personal boundaries and gain new confidence in their abilities.

Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center
524 Wellington Rd.
Breckenridge, CO 80424
(970) 453-6422

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Gene Ehlers

By Jennifer Padget

During the cold winter months, Gene Ehlers can be found carving paths through the fresh powder of the Colorado Rockies.  What’s special about Ehlers love of skiing is his passion and commitment to sharing the sport with those unable to brave the slopes by themselves.

Individuals with disabilities, such as visual impairment, cerebral palsy, or paralyzed limbs, may often feel trapped by their bodies’ limitations.  By leading people with special needs through a day of flying through snow banks and shredding down mountains, Ehlers helps others gain a sense of freedom and independence from the constraints of their own bodies.

For Ehlers, seeing how the opportunity transforms those he's helping is the best part.  "It's great to see them take pleasure in the sport and their accomplishments," he said.

As a successful accountant, Ehlers is no stranger to reaching for higher goals.  He is currently working on receiving his Certified Management Accountant designation from the Institute of Management Accountants, and in his spare time has rekindled an interest in renovating real estate.

Despite his busy schedule, Ehlers has been volunteering his time to special needs skiing programs for the past six seasons.  For the first four years, he worked with Maine Handicapped Skiing.  This January marks Ehlers' second year with the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, an organization that has been providing outdoor adventure experiences to people with special needs for over 30 years.

BOEC opens up the Colorado wilderness to all who are willing to show "that they have the power within themselves to change their own lives."  To help participants realize their own potential, the program focuses on strengthening communication, emphasizing abilities, self-challenges, and having fun. Through encouraging individuals of all abilities to push themselves, BOEC hopes to help them open up an infinite number of opportunities.

Ehlers says his experience with BOEC has helped him reach a number of his own personal goals, such as providing service to others, meeting great new people, and getting some good exercise at the same time.  Volunteers are also encouraged to improve their own skills through passes to participating resorts and clinics held every year.

According to Ehlers, what makes a successful volunteer in any situation is "an ability to teach and to see experiences from someone else's perspective, a genuine desire to be of help."

Sometimes, this means letting the person you are helping guide you.

Several years ago, Ehlers met one of his most interesting clients, an 80-year-old woman with a visual impairment.  As they were getting ready to hit the slopes, the woman asked that he ski behind her, terrified that she would run over him! 

All day Ehlers followed her down the mountain in his bib marked "Guide". Ehlers says, "It must have appeared that I spent the whole day attempting to catch up with my student!" In the past, Ehlers' life-long search for new experiences has led him to volunteer as a youth mentor, a student exchange host, and a treasurer to numerous nonprofits.  He is currently using VolunteerMatch to find his next adventure.

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