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‘A need for speed’

The ramp leading up to Terry “Scooter” Hayes’ front door isn’t just a necessity. It’s a chance

to fly.

“I'm kind of a daredevil,” the Army Veteran and Paralympian said. “So I like to bolt down my ramp.”

Hayes is taking her thirst for adrenaline to the mountains of Snowmass, Colorado, for the 36th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, co-presented by DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The annual event—known as “Miracles on a Mountainside”—allows profoundly disabled Veterans to participate in adaptive sports such as skiing, rock climbing and sled hockey.

Naturally, Terry is most looking forward to downhill skiing.

“I have a need for speed,” the lifetime DAV member said.

The snowy landscape will be new to the longtime Florida resident, but Hayes is no stranger to sports. As a kid, she and her sister would play “Olympics” in the backyard, creating a hurdle out of large trash cans and a broom for the high jump. Officially, she played competitive softball.

The daughters of a retired Army master sergeant, Hayes and her sister enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1977. Two years later during a training exercise, Hayes lost her balance and fell, injuring her knee and requiring two surgeries. It was the beginning of a long road that would ultimately lead to a devastating diagnosis.

Hayes was honorably discharged the same year she injured her knee. In the years after, she kept losing her balance and falling. By 2011, she found herself needing to hang onto things just to walk–the kitchen counter, the wall, her wife Freda’s arm.

“I was scared at that point,” Hayes said. “And I said, something is radically wrong, I have to go and find out what the heck is going on here.”

Hayes was later diagnosed with primary cerebellar degeneration, a brain disease that gradually causes permanent paralysis.

“I was determined then that I was going to live my best life possible, no matter what,” Hayes said. “So far that has served me really well, and I'm loving life right now.”

Hayes admits to letting herself sulk for a couple of days after, and again in 2017 when she became paralyzed from the chest down. But Hayes quickly rallied, determined to extract every bit of joy and adventure from life that she can–whether it’s listening to disco music while cleaning or competing in adaptive fencing tournaments.

Hayes started wheelchair fencing when she was 58 years old. By 63, she was competing in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games for Team USA.

“You are never too old to get started into sports,” she said.

Neither age nor physical limitations will stop Hayes from flying down the mountains in Snowmass. Along with the adrenaline rush, she’s looking forward to meeting other disabled Veterans at the first big DAV event she’s been able to attend.

“I enjoy being around people like myself, other people that are in wheelchairs,” Hayes said. “So I'm looking forward to making some new friendships and just having a great time.

“I'm looking forward to the whole thing.”

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