Woman to Watch: Lee Joiner

pulled from the pages of the March 2016 issue of Simply Family Magazine

photo by Jana Graham Photography

Eagle Mount Billings is a unique organization that offers recreational activities to children and adults with disabilities in the community since 1988.  Eagle Fest Coordinator Lee Joiner has a passion for life, her community, and for Eagle Mount participants young and old.  Her personal and professional ties to the organization have helped her become the vibrant young woman she is today.

Tell us a little about yourself…

“I moved from Harlowton, MT to Red Lodge when I was 9 years old.  My childhood was far from typical.  Because of my rare birth defect, I had to have several surgeries and spent a lot of time in hospitals."

When were you first introduced to Eagle Mount?

"I was first introduced to Eagle Mount when I was 7 years old.  I was a participant in their weekend ski program, first at Bridger Bowl and then at Red Lodge Mountain. I was born with a very unique disability, and Eagle Mount figured out a way to make skiing possible for me.  Within a couple of years, I was racing."

Tell us more about what skiing means to you…

“When I learned how to ski, it was like a whole new world opened up for me. I had this physical freedom of flying down a hill and go where I wanted.  It was my passion in life.  I started traveling around to races in the U.S. when I was 12. By the time I was 16 years old, I had been named to the U.S. Disabled Ski Team.  I turned 18 during my first trip to Europe.  When I was 20, I competed in the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City.  Injuries forced me to retire at 22, but I retired 2nd in the U.S. and 5th overall in the world.  Even though I haven’t skied in several years because of injuries, I miss it every day and wouldn’t have it any other way.”

What does Eagle Mount mean to you?

“I owe my ski racing career, which was a life-changing event, all to Eagle Mount for not giving up and being there for me every Saturday.  I remember that I just wanted to be able to keep up with my friends and brother on the ski hill.  Eagle Mount never told me ‘no’, and that was so important in my successes.”

Describe a perfect day…

“Any day that involves relaxing and being with my friends, family, and my dog Harley is a perfect day to me.  Add an afternoon nap and I’m in heaven.”

If you had an extra $100, what would you do with it?

“Actually, $100 is the cost of an individual ticket to Eagle Fest, so I would buy a ticket for a faithful participant or volunteer who would like to go.”

Do you have any advice to others facing a difficulty or obstacle?

“When I’m faced with a difficulty or obstacle, I try to remember that (bad) things don’t happen TO me, they happen FOR me to become a better, stronger person. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes that reason is so you can help other people who are going through similar struggles.  There is always something to be grateful for, and a grateful heart is a full heart.”

What is your personal motto?

“I get up.  I walk.  I fall down.  Meanwhile, I keep dancing.”

  • Learn more about the 25th Annual Eagle Fest (and how to get your ticket!), here