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Meier wants to return to Paralympic podium; fundraiser is Saturday at Afton Alps

If all goes as planned for Hastings Paralympic skier Monte Meier, he'll be on the slopes representing the United States of America from December through March. In the middle of all that, he'll be racing and hopefully medaling in Vancouver at the Paralympics.

But for those four months, the 1989 HHS graduate won't be reporting for normal duty at his Home Depot job. In fact, he won't have an income at all.

In years previous, Meier had been paid by Home Depot as part of their Olympic Job Opportunity Program. In March, though, the retailer stopped the program, leaving Olympians and Paralympians in a bind. The poor economy also prompted a few of Meier's other sponsors to withdraw their support.

Meier still receives some traveling support from the U.S. Ski Team, but that support certainly won't cover the electricity bill at his house in Utah.

So, his family and friends have banded together and will be throwing a fundraiser for Meier Saturday at Afton Alps. The money raised will help Meier get to the Olympics, and it will help him return to a home with lights and heat.

"I'll be gone Dec. 1 through March if everything goes well," he said. "I won't be working. I won't be getting paid.

"We gotta keep the lights on at my house."

The fundraiser will be from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Afton Alps main lodge bar. Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $5 for children. There will be a chili feed, a silent auction and a meat raffle.

The trip to the Paralympics would be Meier's fifth. He's won gold medals in the past and desperately wants to get back on the podium this year.

"I'm pretty excited about it," Meier said. "I had some really good results at the Paralympics test event at Whistler. I know it's a good hill for me.

"I'm feeling pretty confident in being able to go out with a bang, and hopefully, end my 19-year career on the podium. That's what we are shooting for. Hopefully we can pull it off."

Regardless, this year will mark the final year Meier plans to compete on the world's stage for Paralympians, he said.

"Some people have heard me say that before," Meier said with a laugh. "This is is my final farewell tour, if you will. It's been a good run. It has been the best job in the world.

"I've had it for 19 years, here, skiing for the United States. It's a big honor and it has been very rewarding. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I've been blessed and very fortunate."

The Paralympics is an elite-level worldwide competition for athletes with disabilities. They will be held March 12 through 21 in Vancouver. Meier lost his right leg below the knee in a garden tiller accident when he was 8 years old.

What is next

Meier and his wife of three years, Tracy, live in the mountains in Park City, Utah.

Following the winter Paralympics, Meier said he'll start trying to figure out what he is going to do with the rest of his life.

"I really don't have a whole lot of answers there," he said. "I'd like to have something kind of lined up before I retire, but all my focus is on the skiing and trying to get on that podium. It's taking everything I've got, to focus on that."

He has a degree in finance and is hoping to use that following skiing.

Meier said he is especially thankful these days that he has a strong group of family and friends, and he's thankful they are putting together the fundraiser.

His longtime friend, Jeff Leedholm, and his girlfriend, Mindy Hoeschen, have been big parts of the planning. Meier's sister, Jodi Altavilla, and the Meier family have also played a big role.

"I'm pretty excited to have that kind of support," Meier said.

The support of Afton Alps also means a lot to Meier. They have sponsored him in the past and donated the space for the fundraiser.

"I appreciate everything they have done for me," he said. "They supported me throughout the years, and I'm very thankful for that."

Meier will be at the benefit, and said he is looking forward to seeing many of his old friends there, too.

Meier's parents, Jack and Irene, reside in Hastings.