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For most of us when we hear the words ski patrol we think of the men and women who come to the aid of injured skiers during the winter ski season. But in McHenry, Maryland, the corps of outdoor emergency care certified staff and volunteers, known as WSP, not only serve as the sole life support for folks enjoying winter activities on the mountain at Wisp Ski Resort but also are an important component of the Garrett County Emergency Services all year round.

In fact, for more than six decades, WSP has provided emergency rescue and safety services not only at the resort during the winter, but also throughout the county, state and the region at various outdoor events during the off-season. When there’s so much on the line, having the appropriate inventory of equipment and trained personnel can literally mean the difference between life and death.

For Steve Cabe, Wisp Ski Patrol Director and a 25-year veteran of WSP, a recent $40,000 grant from the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund, has gone a long way to replenish some equipment, expand continuing education and training, and recruit and retain additional new members to serve as emergency technicians. WSP consists of 90 members, of whom 80 are volunteers. The volunteer life support patrollers not only spend countless hours volunteering both on and off the slopes (over 9,000 volunteer hours at the Wisp Resort alone in the 2017-18 season), but also often cover much of their own expenses including travel, equipment, and outdoor apparel.
“We get a lot of support from the Wisp Resort which we appreciate. When you are on the front line for emergency care, you need to be as proactive as possible when it comes to building capacity to do your job,” said Cabe. “When we have an emergency on the mountain an ambulance or helicopter will be dispatched to provide transport to a hospital, but it’s a WSP technician that will be providing sole life support. If it hadn’t been for this grant, we would have needed to do without or slowly replace aging equipment over the next 10 years,” he added.
Specifically, the grant-funded:

  • Nearly $29,000 in much needed first aid equipment, supplies and supplement uniforms.
  • Expanded community-based programs to include CPR cardiopulmonary resuscitation), AED (automated external defibrillator) and basic first aid training. This builds capacity for WCP by having a greater number of individuals trained to offer basic lifesaving skills while waiting for EMS to arrive.
  • Expanded continuing education programs for WSP members and incentives for instructors. As part of this enhanced training, 10 patrollers received training on how to administer Narcan.
  • Recruitment and retention efforts to sustain membership to replace members due to natural attrition loss.

“This grant has made a tremendous impact for WSP. We have a lot more equipment, so we aren’t spread as thin, have 11 new recruits, and hosted five public CPR and AED classes – all with great turnout. We have even been able to offset training costs like course fees and text books for our new recruits,” said Cabe.

The WSP grant was one of 42 Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund (MAERDAF) grants totaling $1,093,930, which was distributed to 39 organizations in fiscal year 2018. MAERDAF was established in 2000 to offer financial assistance to rural nonprofits organizations that promote statewide and regional planning, economic and community development, and agricultural and forestry education. In addition, MAERDAF offers grants to community colleges that support small and agricultural businesses with enhanced training and technical assistance. Between 2001 and 2018, the MAERDAF program has awarded more than $4.4 million in grants to 115 rural-serving nonprofit organizations.

“This project provided us with a great opportunity to support an effort that would ultimately have a rippling effect throughout the region,” said Charlotte Davis, executive director of the Rural Maryland Council. “Outdoor recreation plays an important tourism and economic development role in the region to the tune of $1,703,091 not only in accommodations and admissions/amusement tax revenue, but also millions of dollars more to local businesses who benefit from the influx of visitors,” Davis added.
Founded in 1994, the Rural Maryland Council serves as the state’s federally designated rural development council and functions as a voice for rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts. To learn more call (410) 841-5774, email rmc.mda@maryland.gov or connect with the Rural Maryland Council at facebook.com/RuralMaryland or on Twitter @RuralMaryland.