On May 22, several local non-profits collaborated for an adaptive clinic for 20 people with disabilities to learn to water ski.
In the Sarasota area, many residents can participate in a wide array of water activities. Now, Easter Seals Southwest Florida, Ski-A-Rees, Loveland Center, Community Haven and Ann’s Angels are working to bring these opportunities to everyone.
On May 22, the nonprofits collaborated for an adaptive clinic to help 20 people with disabilities to learn to water ski.
“There are things, like water skiing, that other people choose to do or not,” said Jannon Pierce, vice president of Easter Seals Southwest Florida. “These people who are disabled don’t always get to choose. We really want to work together to offer equal access and equal choice.”
The event featured clinics in the morning and afternoon, followed by a performance by members of Ski-A-Rees, who are participating in the regional competition June 18-19.
“For us, we love to ski,” Ski-A-Rees board member Adam Waxler said. “To be able to share that with people who otherwise can’t, you just can’t put that into words. I’m sharing something I love with people, and seeing their smiles is an amazing feeling.”
Each participant was able to go in the water three to four times during the clinic. Ski-A-Rees performers helped train the guests on wheelchair-friendly devices. As the day progressed, some participants chose to try the water skiing standing up.
“It’s a blast," said participant Cody Bowman, a former intern for Easter Seals. "It’s awesome on the water. It’s very liberating. I usually don’t have that kind of freedom in the water.”
The participants, who have varying forms of mental or physical disabilities, ranged in age from 10 to 55, but there have been people in their 90s in some clinics.
“We’re helping everybody’s ability shine,” said Tom Waters, president of Easter Seals Southwest Florida. “When you see someone progress, this is why we do it. This is therapeutic, physically and emotionally.”
Because of space and equipment available, the clinic could only accept 20 participants, and a waitlist quickly formed.
“It’s this chance to have freedom in the water,” said participant Jordan Glenn, 15, who has water skied since he was 11. “It just gives kids and people with disabilities the freedom to go out and do something.”
Because of these clinics, Glenn’s father, David, began volunteering with Ann’s Angels.
“Once you start, the smiles on these people is contagious,” David Glenn said. “Your worries disappear completely. Everyone is so happy here.”
Waxler said Ski-A-Rees hopes to host an adaptive clinic like this every spring and one for military veterans in the fall.