Mark AshkinadzeMark Ashkinadze is 50 years old, and lives in Vancouver, BC. He suffered a brain injury in 2001. He heard about VASS through the Connectra Society, and has been with VASS for the past 5 years. When Mark is not at VASS, he spends his time playing and teaching music, doing physical therapy, working out at the gym, swimming at the pool, and attending yoga classes.

When I’m skiing, I feel free!

Skiing is important to Mark for a number of reasons. He appreciates both the physical challenge, and emotional pleasure that he gets from his time with VASS. “For my body, it’s balance, flexibility, muscular fitness, (especially for my legs) and a great cardiovascular workout. But I think the most important reason is how skiing makes me feel. When I’m up on the hill, looking down at an awesome view of Vancouver, and I’m skiing all on my own, the feeling is priceless. I no longer feel trapped in my body. When I’m skiing, I feel free! I feel alive!”

Mark states that perhaps the biggest impact VASS has had on him is that skiing has helped him improve his balance after his injury and has been an important component of his rehabilitation process. “Every year has been a wonderful experience for me. VASS has knowledgeable staff and caring volunteers. They are the ones that made the big difference for me.”

I accomplished something that seemed impossible

Mark’s most memorable experience with VASS is the very first time he went up to Grouse Mountain. “It had been 10 years since the last time I went skiing. After my injury I thought I could never ski again. Even my doctors told me that I may never walk or talk again, but I had a dream of being able to ski again. The first time I went down the bunny hill, I was strapped into a harness, and two people had to hold me up. I had very poor balance and kept falling over, but I didn’t care. I felt so proud of myself just for being up there that night. The next day I was sore and covered in bruises, but I was very happy. I accomplished something that seemed impossible, and I wore my bruises with pride,  like patches of honour. I showed them to all my friends. The fact that I can ski again is nothing short of a miracle. Thanks to VASS my dream has come true!”