Madison House alum and recent UVA grad Milos Tomovic says Madison House is one of the best organizations at UVA, and one of the best experiences he had at the University.
Before graduating this past spring with his degree in biochemistry, Milos served as a Program Director for Madison House’s Recreational Therapy program. Through Rec Therapy’s partnership with local nonprofit Therapeutic Adventures’ Massanutten — Adaptive Snow Sports program, volunteers provide adaptive skiing instruction to cancer survivors, veterans and their families, and individuals with physical and developmental disabilities or other chronic health issues. The program works closely with Mark Andrews, Therapeutic Adventures Founder and former Madison House Associate Director of Programs.
"It is a different kind of responsibility to take someone who is blind and deaf skiing down a mountain."
Image: Therapeutic Aventures Executive Director and Madison House Community Partner Mark Andrews skis with a Therapeutic Adventures client, Preston.
“It is a different kind of responsibility to take someone who is blind and deaf skiing down a mountain,” Milos says. “Sometimes clients don’t have full capability or capacity to use their arms, legs, or bodies […]. In some cases, you’re the best defense of any harm that might happen to them on the mountain.”
As a Program Director, Milos implemented a new form of training for his volunteers, in addition to the extensive training required by Therapeutic Adventures. Milos had volunteers practice “sit skiing,” one of the 10 adaptive forms of snow sports offered by Therapeutic Adventures. As a form of skiing intended for individuals who use a wheelchair, sit skiers sit in a bucket seat held above metal runners and turn by planting hand-held poles
“All of the volunteers thought it was a great and unique experience,” Milos remembers. “We gained a greater appreciation for what clients do and a greater understanding of how they maneuver themselves in order to better instruct them.”
"We gained a greater appreciation for what clients do, and how they maneuver in order to better instruct them."
Image: Milos with Therapeutic Adventures client, Brian
Volunteers with the Therapeutic Adventures program serve hundreds of hours during the winter season and often wake up at 6:30am (a difficult task for college students, Milos says). By giving so much of their time, Milos says volunteers build “phenomenal” and “joyful” relationships with the adaptive skiers and their families.
Image: Rec Therapy Head Program Director and Program Directors
Total service hours during the 2016 - 2017 academic year:
VALUE OF VOLUNTEERS' 2016 - 2017
SKILLS AND ACTIVITIES TAUGHT TO INDIVIDUALS WITH INTELLECTUAL, DEVELOPMENTAL AND PHYSICAL DISABILITIES:
Arts, basketball, cooking, crafts, computer, fly-fishing, hiking, horseback riding, independent living, kayaking, math, music, rock climbing, reading, skiing, Tai-Chi, yoga
COMMUNITY PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS
Albemarle County Post High Program, Charlottesville Area Riding Therapy, Charlottesville High School Parkside, Region Ten Meadowcreek Center, Special Olympics, The Arc of the Piedmont, Therapeutic Adventures, Inc.
Milos recalls one of the “countless memorable moments” he experienced as a volunteer — skiing with a disabled veteran practicing mono-skiing, a form of sit skiing above one full-length ski.
“He had a traumatic spinal cord injury and was partially paralyzed on his left side,” Milos says, remembering the client’s enthusiasm, determination and plans to ski in Colorado. Together, they completed a black diamond run, one of the mountain’s most difficult.
“I was speechless,” says Milos. “People were stopping us in the lift line, giving us high-fives and thumbs-up. I was trying to keep up with him.”
Now applying to medical school, Milos largely credits his Rec Therapy experiences as inspiring him to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
Now applying to medical school, Milos credits his Rec Therapy Experiences as inspiring him to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
Image: Milos with Therapeutic Adventures client, Preston
“The changes that clients make through outdoor activities wouldn’t be possible without orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and physical therapists,” Milos says. “Everyone has an essential role in bettering clients’ quality of life, and allowing them to have greater capacity and control of their bodies.”
His advice for current volunteers? Make time for volunteering and love what you’re doing. While driving home to Norfolk from a road trip, Milos says he still stops to visit former clients in Richmond. Another former Rec Therapy Program Director returned from medical school last year, Milos says, to surprise a group of teenage clients. When they saw her, Milos says they had “the biggest smiles” on their faces.
“Volunteering is that time of the week you get to be a part of somebody’s life,” he says.
Milos' advice for current volunteers? Make time for volunteering and love what you do.