An accomplished local snow ski racer is spreading the joy of her sport with a scholarship for youth skiers, ages 7-18, and adults with special needs.
Lucky Racer is the brainchild of Kris Scherer of Roanoke. She established the junior ski racing scholarship in honor of Doug Lueke, Scherer’s late stepfather, who raised her since she was 2 years old. “He introduced me to the sport of skiing at age 3,” she said. “At age 7 he taught me ski racing.”
Lueke spent 30 years serving on the ski patrol at Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, located in southeastern Indiana not far from Cincinnati, Ohio. Scherer’s mother also was on the ski patrol. Having spent so much time with her family on the slopes growing up, Scherer excelled at ski racing until a serious ski accident kept her out of racing for a while.
When her dad (technically her stepdad, but she thinks of him as her dad) was in hospice at the end of his life “we had the difficult conversation,” she said, referring to end-of-life issues. She asked him about a ski racing scholarship in his name. “That brought the biggest smile to his face,” she said.
During that same time, “he asked me to get back into racing,” she said. “I promised him I would do it.”
Doug Lueke passed away May 29, 2015.
Although his name is pronounced LOO-ke many of the people he met over the years couldn’t pronounce it, so they called him Lucky. That was the inspiration for the name of the scholarship: Lucky Racer.
Ski racing is an expensive sport. Equipment, snowsuits, racing gear, lessons, lift tickets, transportation and lodging can put the experience out of reach for many. The scholarship is intended to alleviate some of that financial pain.
The scholarship is funded through Lueke’s family and friends, as well as private and public donations. It’s awarded annually, usually in February. One to three junior skiers or one adult with special needs is chosen and honored annually. A committee decides how to allocate the funds. Scholarships can range from $300 to $2,000.
The scholarship also is dedicated to Julie Murphy, a ski patroller and ski racer who died in 2017 of inflammatory breast cancer. “She requested I sell her equipment and donate it to Lucky Racer,” Scherer said.
The 2019 scholarship went to DesaRae Nickell of Morehead, Kentucky. She frequently skies at Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, where the Scherers often go. The 27-year-old is a Special Olympian who hopes to make it to the Special Olympics Winter Games in Sweden in 2021. She was awarded a $1,500 Lucky Racer scholarship, which she plans to use for a ski boot bag and for trips to Mad River Mountain near Bellefontaine, Ohio, a favorite spot of the Scherers.
Nickell has grown quite close to the Scherers. “I’m glad they’re my ski family now,” she said.
Having skied black diamond hills (for advanced skiiers), Nickell seems fearless in the face of a sport known for breaking bones, wrenching knees and worse.
“Going fast is what I love to do,” she said. “Ski racing is my favorite.”
And if she falls, “I jut get back up.”
Ski racing not only builds physical strength, it builds character, Scherer said. It requires adrenaline, no fear, and confidence to race down a hill on skis — along with faith.
Future plans for Lucky Racer include a two-day ski camp and a ski racing event at Mad River Mountain to award and honor the next Lucky Racer scholarship recipient(s).
As for her promise to her dad to get back into racing, how did that turn out?
Scherer kept her promise, competing in the NASTAR nationals in 2016, and finished in second place.