DANSVILLE — A baby boy was born on May 29, 1973 to an Ossian couple and the odds were greatly against him.
The term spina bifida was one that no parent would ever want to hear when it came to their infant son. What some called a nightmare became a reality to Tom and Joan Wamp when their son Steve was born.
Joan once told the story of how the baby was in the hospital in Rochester and there would be phone calls on a daily basis always with uncertain news. I remember going to answer the phone wondering 'Is he doing okay?' or has he taken a turn for the worst.
Fighting this constant stressful battle waiting for Steve to come home was tough. Joan told Fr. Tim Weider (pastor at the time at Sacred Heart Church in Perkinsville) about the situation being just beside herself.
Joan noted, "I remember what he told me ... "God gives special children to special parents. I've never forgotten those words."
Today, almost 41 years later Steve's latest escapade is winning gold medals.
Steve, along with his wife Suzanne reside in Farmington and recently returned from New Hampshire where her parents now reside. Suzanne and her two brothers were avid skiiers, and now Steve is too.
Wamp recently took up the sport of Sit Skiing and is in love with the sport. Their most recent trip has resulted in his winning the gold medal in the Sit Skiing division of the annual Diana Golden Races for disabled skiiers. Steve showed off the nice blue ribbon which was imprinted with the name of the race, while the medal itself is emblazoned with the Disabled Sports U.S.A. logo and on the other side has the Paralympic sign.
As a youngster, nothing stopped Steve from participating in anything. I recall his father, Tom, always wanting Steve to be treated like any other kid. After, in essence, he was.
I recall Steve playing Little League baseball for Shay's back in the day. I remember on several occasions when somebody hit a smash in the hole between first and second base and Steve would make a lunging dive and come up with the baseball and throw the runner out at first from his knees.
I used to get so excited for him, I nearly cried. Those very fond memories for me have me wiping my eyes now as I type these words.
The inspirational levels just skyrocket when you witness something like that. Steve never let any of it get him down and he's managed to live his entire life that way.
Yes, he admits that others used to kid him about the way he walked and his braces on his legs.
"I guess I've kinda gotten used to it down through the years," he said. "The neat thing now is when I get in line with my sit-ski for the lift, people are coming over to me telling me how neat it is and wanting to know more about it."
Wamp is a 1991 Dansville graduate and said he became interested in sit-skiing three years ago when he and was on a cruise with his family.
"We were talking to this guy on the boat and the subject of skiing came up and he asked if I ever tried 'sit-skiing?'" he said. "My wife and I had never heard of such a thing. He thought I'd love it ... and I did."
Steve started on a dual track sit ski and within a week was on the "mono-ski" (as it is called in some countries).
He recalled, "Yeah, last year we went to New Hampshire to ski and people there told me about the Diana Gold races, which I missed by about 2 weeks. I told them that I definitely wanted to sign up for this year's race and compete."
Steve did, and in his first ever race, he brought home gold.
The race was held at Gunstock Ski Resort where the slalom slope was open for skiiers with both physical and non-physical disabilities.
"When I first started I just wanted to see if I could do some great skiing," Wamp said. "As for the race, being the first time I had ever done it ... it was amazing, it was beautiful and it was exhilarating."
Each racer took two runs on the slope and the times were factored according to the skiier's abilities and categories, which resulted in the winners, while some awards were given by age groups.
"I'm definitely going to race again next year, and maybe will try to move up the classifications too," said Wamp. "I'm also looking around at other similar races which are run in New York State. So far I've found one at Windham Mountain near Albany and another at Greek Peak just south of Syracuse. I just love the sport, I can't get enough of it."
It was exciting for me just to talk to Steve about his exploits on the slopes. He also said the the sit-ski apparatus on which he rides weight about 30 pounds itself & said that he has the ability to go faster than normal skiiers down those slopes. He also noted that there are times that he or his wife Suzanne would wear a sophisticated helmet-cam to record videos of what its like coming down the slopes on his sit-ski.
"I'd like to get lots of other people interested in it too. It's fun," he said.
Steve, who turns 41 in May, has done computer work, and also does dog training, and also helps out at his father's real estate business in Dansville with data entry and paperwork as well.
This is, of course, when he's not out winnning gold medals.
As a youngster, I have often prayed — and continue to pray — for Steve's well-being and his success in life. From this most recent venture, it's quite evident that Wamp is quite determined, energetic, and full of life.
I can't think of Steve without a smile on his face ... really. What a great attitude Steve has in tackling life's mountains.
Now he's both climbing them and descending them successfully as well.
Thanks Steve for the great inspiration that you are to so many people.