Chicago, IL, Nov. 8--Mono-skier Jeff Pagels of Green Bay, Wis., a Paralympic champion, is the first regional finalist from the Midwest for the Texaco Star Award. Pagels has applied the same focus and determination he used to become a mono-ski champion to broaden the nationwide Ski For Light program beyond blind skiers. He was honored Nov. 5 at the Chicago Ski & Snowboard Ball at The Standard Club.
The first annual Texaco Star Award honors the contributions of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team alumni to their communities. Five regional finalists - from the Midwest, Intermountain, Rocky Mountains, East and West Coast - have been selected. A $1,000 check will be presented to the charity of their choice. The winner of the Texaco Star Award will be chosen from the regional finalists with $10,000 being donated in his or her name to their favorite charity during the New York Ski & Snowboard Ball on Nov. 8.
"We applaud Jeff's fortitude and dedication in providing a new outlook on life to disabled persons through the enjoyment of skiing," said Polly Rua, Manager of Sponsorships. "Texaco is proud of our partnership with the US Ski and Snowboard Association and the creation of the Texaco Star Award; an Award that embodies Texaco's commitment to support the communities in which we operate and where our employees work and live."
"This is a great honor. I'm really pleased," Pagels said. "If it weren't for Ski for Light, I wouldn't have gotten where I did and be where I am. I owe it all to them." His $1,000 check as Regional Finalist will go to Ski For Light, he said.
Pagels, a community planner for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where he was an All-American swimmer. In the early 1990s, he was inducted into the University's Sports Hall of Fame. A triathlete and recreational cross country skier, Pagels completed the fabled 55-kilometer American Birkebeiner the largest ski race in North America - seven times.
In 1984, at the age of 35, Pagels' spinal cord was severed when a tree he was cutting down fell on him. During his rehabilitation, Pagels became involved with Ski For Light (SFL) and since 1988 has served as their mobility-impaired coordinator, overseeing programs to help people with disabilities enjoy the sport of cross county skiing. In 1986, he started his disabled ski racing career as a sit-skier at a SFL event. Before the 1989 season, Pagels became the first sit-skier on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and won two gold medals at the 1992 Paralympics in France, and earned three silver medals at the '94 Paralympics in Norway. In 1998, he coached Japan's elite disabled cross country team at the Paralympics in Nagano and also taught young sit-skiers in Japan.
"While I'm no longer interested in competition," Pagels said, "I sure do enjoy teaching other disabled people how to ski, and I've got plenty of opportunity with Ski For Light." In addition to skiing, Pagels enjoys kayaking and elk hunting. He and his wife Jane have two grown sons.