Skiing Takes Special Kids To New Heights

Since 8-year-old Wil Searby doesn't speak, it can be hard to tell what he's thinking.

But he does have a sign for skiing. It's pretty much his favorite sign in the world, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's Assignment America.

"At 5:30 in the morning he comes running in the room," says Connie, his mother. "And I have to figure out how to entertain him for five hours until we actually get his lesson. He's totally hard-core."

Connie says if her son wins a medal, he'll wear it for a week. If you don't hide his skis at home, he'll take them to bed and sleep with them.

All this enthusiasm comes despite severe developmental challenges that often make him seem detached. But not on ski days. When he sees his instructor, he's positively happy.

Santa should feel so special.

"He's always here. He's always heading for the door. He's ready to go anytime," Wil's instructor says.

And Wil is not alone in his zeal.

At the Holimont Ski Resort in Ellicottville, N.Y., they've got about a dozen special kids, with everything from autism to Down's syndrome, all of whom who are especially passionate about skiing.

These kids are ski bums through and through. They're at the resort every weekend, weekend after weekend, season after season. Some of them are so good now that it's hard to tell they even have a disability, which is, of course, part of the purpose.

Even Wil's mom says she hardly recognizes him.

"He couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without using his hands to scamper up the stairs," Connie says. "After a season of skiing he was running up the stairs."

It makes Connie hopeful that even more breakthroughs are yet to come. Certainly, if this story proves anything, it's where there's a will, there's a way. And where there's a ski, there's a Wil.

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  • Melissa McNamara

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