Before you read Milan’s story…

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When Milan arrived for his first snow ski lesson at Achieve Tahoe, he was nervous.

“I was nervous because the mountain was so high,” Milan says. “Then I got used to it and I love it. Now I’m really good at skiing.”

Britt, his first instructor, noticed his shift from nervousness to believing in himself. “You could tell he was smiling even though he was all bundled up – with every small victory he got more and more outgoing, realizing that he could ski and this sport was for him.”

Growing up in a Spanish-speaking household in Kings Beach on Lake Tahoe, Milan does not come from a skiing family. His mom, Angelica, has struggled to find accessible and affordable activities in the Tahoe area that he can participate in with his cerebral palsy, a developmental disability caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain before, during, or immediately after birth. For Milan, this means that he has hemi-paresis, or muscle weakness, on one side of his body.

“His right side of his body, it’s just kind of weak. It affects his brain. One day he can be really good, the next it’s hard,” says his mother, Angelica.

Milan poses at our archery range, flexing.

Before they found Achieve Tahoe, Angelica tried to get him involved in other local youth organizations.

Milan is wearing a helmet and laughing on Donner Summit at our outdoor climbing program

“I tried to put him in sports and the Boys and Girls Club, but to be honest … the kids were really hard on him. He would come home crying, saying, ‘This boy told me I cannot do this, I cannot do that. And I’m not good at that.’ Now at Achieve Tahoe, I like it because nobody’s telling him it’s not good enough… He’s just doing it. He’s enjoying it. And you know, every sport that he’s been doing here, he loves it.”

Since starting with Achieve Tahoe, Milan has tried many new sports in addition to skiing. This past summer he has done climbing, archery, paddleboarding, sailing, and equestrian. Throughout his time at Achieve Tahoe, Milan’s smile, laughter, and kindness have enthused staff, volunteers, and participants alike. While sailing this summer, that positive attitude helped make a stressful situation on the water better for everyone involved.

“The day started off sunny, but after lunch storm clouds rolled in and it started to rain,” says sailing program coordinator Scott Behrens. “We had to get picked up by the safety power boats, and on the power boats it was cold and wet. A lot of the other kids in the sailing class started getting worked up.”

Despite the cold and the rain, Milan rallied the other kids in the sailing camp to stay calm.

“To help the other kids, I said, ‘Calm down and work together. We’re going to work together, we’re going to be ok.’” Milan says.

Milan and his sailing instructor are in an adaptive sailboat on Lake Tahoe as storm clouds roll in.
Milan paddleboards with an Achieve Tahoe volunteer on Donner Lake.

Milan’s positivity stretches to other programs as well. Every volunteer knows Milan for his Michael Jackson dance moves, his motivational words to everyone around him, and his shout of joy whenever he accomplishes something new.

Milan and his family are thrilled there is an adaptive recreation program near their home and are grateful for Achieve Tahoe’s ability to provide financial assistance, through the Scholarship Program.

“To be honest, if you didn’t have a scholarship program, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” Angelica says. “You have this program for people who need it, and we love it. At first, I was scared to come because my English is not going to be perfect, but you guys take the time to hear us and listen whenever I talk. We feel comfortable, like we’re with family.” 

For Angelica, every day Milan spends with Achieve Tahoe is a good day.

“Every time I come here with him and do a sport with him, I enjoy it. Every time we work with different people, and they are all awesome. You guys teach my son not to limit himself, that he can do everything. Every day is special.”

For Milan, every day is filled with fun and adventure. What’s more, his experience with Achieve Tahoe has even helped him decide what he wants to be when he grows up.

“My favorite sport is horsey [equestrian]… I want to be a cowboy. I want to be a bull rider!”

Thank you Milan and Angelica for sharing your story with Achieve Tahoe. We look forward to seeing back for snowsports this winter!

Milan and his horse during our equestrian program are head to head, and Milan is smiling.

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