Elizabell “Willie” Williams was born in Lockhard, Texas on November 23, 1931 and raised in San Antonio. The magnetic force of the Colorado Rockies drew her to Denver in the mid 1950’s when she began working as a nurse for The Children’s Hospital.
It was Willie’s love of children that led her to coordinate a skiing program through The Children’s Hospital for young patients with amputations. The first class of 17 boys, ranging in age from 8 to 17 years, was held Wednesday, January 10, 1968, at Arapahoe Basin, Colorado. In addition to organizing the skiers, Willie recruited a corp of volunteers to assist. Together, they created what has become the model most programs across the country are based upon today.
In 1970, the program moved to Winter Park Resort. This was the beginning of the internationally acclaimed National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD). Willie pursued her commitment to disabled skiing and as the program grew she was involved in many national events. In 1980, she accompanied the U.S. Disabled Ski Team to the International Winter Paralympics in Geilo, Norway.
Willie’s desire to enhance the lives of the disabled through her love of the outdoors continued throughout her life. Although Willie passed away on December 16, 1991, she will be remembered as her vision lives on.