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Wolfeboro's "Mountain Division" skis to first place

Wolfeboro Fire-Rescue team bests 19 other teams at Sunday River

WOLFEBORO FIRE-RESCUE’S Mountain Division includes (l to r), firefighter/EMT Robbie Black, Lt. Frank Bellefleur, firefighter/EMT Bob Shilo, Lt. Dave Brackett (retired), firefighter/EMT Daryl Morales and firefighter/EMT Chris Stevens. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
April 04, 2011
NEWRY, Maine — The Wolfeboro Fire-Rescue Department sends a team of skiers to Sunday River every year as part of a fundraiser for the Maine Handicapped Skier Program and every year the participants have a lot of fun and get to compete against teams from all over New England.

This year, however, the local guys came out of the experience with a little more than the good feeling they get helping out and the joy of competing. They came out as the top team in competition.

"It's very surprising," said team captain Firefighter/EMT Bob Shilo. "We would've been happy for a personal best or maybe a top five."

The Wolfeboro "Mountain Division" put together a first run of 38.47 seconds, which held up throughout the entire day, with 19 other teams competing on March 27.

Shilo noted that the team began hearing whispers as the awards ceremony neared that they had come home on top, but they still found it hard to believe.

"We thought we did OK, middle of the pack and we would've been fine with that," Shilo said. "We were there, had a good time, raised money, but to actually win it, wow."

The race involves a five-man team racing down the mountain holding a fire hose, which is 50 feet in length. The firefighters have to wear their full turnout gear, including the helmet, jacket and pants while negotiating a 13-gate giant slalom course.

The Wolfeboro team, which consists of Shilo, Lt. Frank Bellefleur, firefighter/EMT Daryl Morales, firefighter/EMT Chris Stevens and firefighter/EMT Robbie Black and is coached by Lt. Dave Brackett (retired). It was Brackett who got the team started six years ago, when he recruited a few skiers to join him in helping out the MHS program, in which he was active in.

One daunting concern for the Wolfeboro team coming into the race was the fact that the members had never skied together before. In fact, it was Black's first time ever competing in the event.

"He's a good skier and he was able to catch on quickly," Shilo said.

If any member lets go of the line, it is a one-second penalty. All five members must cross the finish line, so if someone falls, it's usually a disqualification.

"If one person slips up just a little, it's a good slide," Shilo said. "But we have the aerodynamics of an elephant."

Each team gets two runs, but the Wolfeboro team didn't finish their second run, so the first one was the one that counted. However, that was enough. The top eight teams finished less than three seconds apart, with Wolfeboro clocking in at 38.47 second, Livermore Falls (Maine) clocking in at 38.93 seconds and Bethel (Maine) in 39.27 seconds.

"When we go up there, we see teams coming down the hill, they are intimidating, they look like a single unit," Shilo said. "And we didn't have any time together."

While winning was nice, Shilo said the Wolfeboro contingent was just happy to contribute to such a great cause.

"Anything we can do to benefit them (handicapped skiers) and get them out there is good," Shilo stated. "They raise an awful lot of money."

In addition to the firemen's race, there was a Ski-A-Thon the previous day in which $297,000 was raised for the handicapped skier program. Bellefleur and Stevens along with their families got in quite a few runs during that event as well. There was also a chili cook-off, with nine or 10 restaurants chipping in with their best recipes.

"They make it a very good event," Shilo said, praising Sunday River for contributing the ski tickets and all the advertising and publicity.

The Wolfeboro contingent was also happy to earn Lt. Brackett a few bragging rights in the local pubs, as he now spends a good deal of his time in the Sunday River area.

Shilo noted he is hoping to work with Abenaki Water Ski Club this summer to help get disabled water skiers on the water. The Wolfeboro Fire-Rescue Department has also helped out the Granite State Adaptive Sports program, including once hosting a race at Abenaki in Wolfeboro.

The department's signature fundraising efforts continues to be for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Jerry's Kids), which many members have participated in over the past 15 years.

For more information on the Maine Handicapped Skier Program, visit www.skimhs.org.

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