Chad Colley, thank you for that kind introduction. Your own story of triumph over adversity will encourage our participants this week.
Good evening everyone, and welcome. I am very honored to be here and so glad to be back in Snowmass. I missed last year's Winter Sports Clinic because of a calendar conflict.
Fortunately, this year we were able to wrap up our fourth and final round of congressional budget hearings on Wednesday, which allowed me to depart Washington, with a quick stop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to dedicate a cemetery, in time to be here today.
The good news about our budget is that, for the fourth time in a row now, the President has requested robust funding that allows VA to provide care and benefits for those who have earned them--robust enough to conduct magnificent events, like this rehabilitative Winter Sports Clinic. These budgets, and the generosity of everyone in this room, produce this "miracle on the mountain" each year--for 26 years now. My thanks to all of you, and especially to Sandy Trombetta, who had the vision two-and-a-half decades ago for what we will be doing this week.
Let me offer special thanks, as well, to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV)--our longstanding partner for this clinic. Good folks like DAV National Commander Don Samuels, Auxiliary National Commander Patrice Rapisand, Marc Burgess, Ron Minter, and their many dedicated DAV volunteers enable our successes each year. DAV is stalwart in its advocacy of Disabled Veterans all across America--in the halls of Congress, in VA facilities nationwide, and here on the slopes of Snowmass. I am proud to be one of your members.
Thanks also to the cities of Snowmass and Aspen for once again sharing the wonders of their beautiful towns and mountains with us, and for their hospitality in welcoming all of us here, but most especially, for embracing our disabled Veterans.
To our corporate, VSO, local, non-profit, and individual sponsors--welcome, once again, to the Winter Sports Clinic. Genuine thanks for your generous support in making this largest disabled winter sports event in the country possible.
To our local VA hosts--Ralph Gigliotti, Director of our Rocky Mountain Network, and Teresa Parks, newly promoted to Director of the Winter Sports Clinic--congratulations --thanks for leading 'Team VA' here on the mountain.
I also want to recognize, as well, Chris Nowak and the rest of our VA National Sports Programs and Special Events team for their skill and determination in promoting and coordinating this clinic for Veterans.
And let me, finally, acknowledge the generosity of our dedicated VA volunteers who are here simply because they care enough to forego all the other options of how they could spend this week. Their presence is inspiring, and their will enables Veteran athletes to do things they never thought possible. We are all indebted to you for your devotion to them.
Now, it takes great courage for an injured Veteran to take on new challenges and tackle the unknown, but these are the men and women who have fought and won our freedom. It should not surprise us that they will fight and win, here at Snowmass, again this week.
Over 400 veterans have accepted the challenge to step out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves and this mountain. Well, just as they did in the military, they will conquer their fears and emerge victorious.
This is all made possible by the generosity of those we recognize tonight, so thank you.
Thank you for giving these very special men and women an opportunity to take their lives to a new level. We know there are lots of causes worthy of your contributions, but the lives of our Veteran athletes will be changed for the better, forever, because of your generosity in supporting this clinic.
God bless our Veterans, and God bless this wonderful country of ours.