Telluride Foundation : 2023 Volunteer of the Year! Honor TASP’s “Suss” 10/26!

Telluride Foundation : 2023 Volunteer of the Year! Honor TASP’s “Suss” 10/26!

After thoughtfully reviewing a record number of nominations, it is with gratitude and admiration that the Telluride Foundation announces David Sussman (better-known by his friends as ‘Suss’) as the 2023 Volunteer of the Year.

The Foundation is honored to recognize David for his nearly decade-long, volunteerism with Telluride Adaptive Sports Program (TASP), where he currently serves as the board president. The Telluride Foundation will hold a community celebration to honor David on Thursday, October 26th at the Ah Haa School for the Arts, 4-7pm. The entire community is encouraged to attend.

Go here for more about the Telluride Foundation (back to 2009).

Go here for more about TASP.

Having been diagnosed at the age of 12 with Transverse Myelitis, a viral infection that left him paraplegic, David has devoted himself to leading by example, living an adventure-filled, meaningful life, and demonstrating that everyone has unique abilities worth celebrating.

Recalling when he first moved to Telluride full-time in 2015, David was surprised when a couple of teenagers on the gondola didn’t ask him the question he was used to getting; “What happened to your legs?” Rather, the pair asked him whether he rode a sit ski or a four-track. David was impressed by their adaptive equipment savvy and learned that they had been educated on the subject through a program they had attended through TASP. In this moment, he knew that ‘Enabling All” was an initiative he wanted to be a part of.

“More than anything I’ve done with volunteering, this one means the most to me,” Suss shared. “I believe that we are having an impact on these kids, truly changing lives by making better humans and teaching them about inclusivity.”

David lives by his motto that there are no limits. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Someday, he hopes that fewer people are shocked to learn about an adaptive athlete who can “drop Mountain Quail,” as he did recently at the Telluride Ski Area.

Truth be told, David has directly influenced hundreds of youths through his work with “Enabling All.” The annual event for 5th-graders in the region teaches disability etiquette and awareness. In that capacity he provides a safe environment for kids to ask questions, gain perspective, and explore their curiosity and humanity. But David’s work doesn’t stop there.

He also serves as a Special Olympics coach and a mentor to Team San Juan, which draws athletes with disabilities from across the region (Montrose, Cortez, Ridgeway, Ouray). They practice together weekly to compete in regional adaptive sports competitions. Under David’s mentorship, the team has brought home hundreds of gold medals.

David volunteers with TASP’s “Military Week,” a program for military veterans and active military who have cognitive and physical disabilities. That initiative brings people with disabilities together in Telluride for hikes, paddle-boarding, snow-sports, and more.

And, over the years, David has also volunteered with “Tribal Adaptive” which encourages Natives with disabilities to find a path towards successful, independent lives through adaptive sports such as adaptive cycling and skiing.

“The Telluride Foundation created its Volunteer of the Year award to honor individuals who unselfishly make extraordinary contributions to the region, improving community members’ quality of life,” said Jason Corzine, President & CEO of the Telluride Foundation. “This year’s recipient is truly an inspiring volunteer who works tirelessly to educate youth and our community about inclusivity, as well as to be a role model for people with disabilities.”

Recognizing David as this year’s Volunteer of the Year gives our community an opportunity to consider how we are doing as it relates to accommodation and inclusivity for people with disabilities.

Telluride can be a challenging place to navigate even as an able-bodied person, having no shortage of housing challenges and accessibility issues, especially when roads and sidewalks are covered in sheets of ice. David has been in talks with town management about making sidewalks more wheelchair friendly. He is currently without secure housing in Telluride and has been on a waiting list to move into one of Telluride’s wheelchair-accessible housing units for five years now, many of which are occupied by able-bodied people. However, when asked recently by a visitor why he chooses to live here despite these accessibility challenges, David’s response is simple; “Are you kidding me? Look at it. This is the most beautiful place in the world.”

As the 2023 Volunteer of the Year, David will receive a grant of $5,000 to be given in his name to the local nonprofit of his choice. David shares the honor with Terry Tice (2003), Lissa Margetts (2004), John Micetic (2005), Bill Carstens (2006), John Pryor and Jane Hickcox (2007), Kathy Green (2008), Marilyn Branch (2009), Dan and Greer Garner and Andrea Benda (2010) and Billy “Senior” Mahoney (2011), Anne Brady (2012), Dean Rolley (2013), Kristin Holbrook (2014), Gary Freedman (2015), Elaine Fischer (2016), Wendy Brooks (2017), and Susan Rice (2018), and Barb Gross (2019), San Miguel County Search & Rescue (2020) and Ouray County Response Fund Founders: Lictenbelt’s & O’Leary’s (2020), Mental Health Advocates: Corinne Cavender, Lollie Lavercombe and Cara Wilder (2021), and Claudia Garcia Curzió, Millan Avila and Jacinto Alonzo (2022).

Telluride Foundation, more:

The Telluride Foundation is committed to enriching the quality of life of the residents, workforce, and visitors of the Telluride region. It is a nonprofit, apolitical community foundation that makes grants and runs programs in arts, education, health and human services, community development, and social enterprises. The Foundation strives to achieve excellence for the community through its mission and core values of inclusion, self-reliance, and innovation. Our work is funded through the generous support of hundreds of donors as well as grants from state and national foundations.

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