Below is letter written by Jeremy's mom describing his experience.
I hope you folks at the DSC realize the powerful impact of your accessible sailing effort. And I do mean effort. I have some idea of what it takes to physically handle people who are severely disabled such as my son, Jeremy. He is 190 pounds with almost no control over his legs and arms, yet you are able to adeptly lower him into the boat, sit him up and make it possible for Jeremy to sail. That’s the powerful impact, you make it possible for Jeremy to sail. Sailing, I have learned has become a passion for Jeremy. He can’t articulate what it is he likes about it but I can see it in his face, hear it in his voice. On the days he sails, Jeremy keeps a running tab of how much time we have left before we leave the house. I’m in big trouble if I make us late.
I may have mentioned to you before, Jeremy’s physical world is a very restricted world. He has never been able to walk or run with kids in the neighborhood. He is confined to his power chair. So his sense of movement is limited. He doesn’t experience the vastness of open space. Sailing expands his world, gives him another way to feel movement. Sailing, I believe, gives him a sense of freedom he has never been able to experience.
There’s something else I have learned about Jeremy since he started sailing. He prefers the windy days, I learned he likes speed.
Words do not adequately express how thankful I am for what you all do. Please play forward my heartfelt appreciation to your staff and your board of directors.
Carmen started sailing with the DSC through a partnership with Special Olympics. Carmen has autism, which is a complex neurological disorder. Both children and adults with autism show difficulty with social interactions and verbal and nonverbal communication.
Carmen instantly enjoyed sailing and showed true emotion while out on the water. One day his grandmother asked if there were any other on the water opportunities for Carmen. She explained that they had very limited resources but Carmen loved sailing so much. Instantly the DSC extended Carmen a Junior’s scholarship, so that Carmen could attend our special needs summer camp free of charge.
Carmen had a great time at Junior’s camp. Although he struggles with showing his emotions everyone could tell he was having a wonderful time. His mother and grandmother explained how excited he was after each day of camp. Our specially trained instructors took him under their wing and taught him social interaction skills as well as sailing skills.
His grandmother explained how much the experience has changed his life. She said, “He now has something he can be proud of, something he can do on his own, his self-esteem has reached new heights!”
Even though camp ended Carmen continued to attend our free accessible Saturdays as well as our end of the season Ya’ Gotta Regatta. The DSC hopes to provide Carmen another scholarship next year.
Esther and Bill's Story
I can’t say enough about the DSC Accessibility Sailing Program. Bill and I are thrilled to be a part of it. His physical therapist suggested he try it and the very first day we had a blast! All the volunteers and staff are so friendly and warm; they’re helpful and make it easy to have a great time.
It’s been a wonderful experience. We’ve had so much fun learning to sail and the best part of it has been the gift of enjoying something we could do together as partners. Sailing is the first activity we have found where he is able to participate as he would if he had not had his injury. Also since guests are allowed, Bill is happy to say that he helped two friends fall in love with sailing while sailing with him.
On another note, I’d like to say as a spouse who is primary care giver, the program offers a unique respite. We are able to do something together in much the same way we would have, had the injury not happened.
While the primary mission is for the disabled a lovely side benefit is that if the caregiver chooses to be a guest, it’s a time when the world is right and life is good.
The Lollipop Kids Foundation is dedicated to providing support for families who have children with disabilities. The foundation has been sailing with the DSC for two summers. The founder Debbie Sahlin describes how wonderful it is for families with children who have various disabilities to find an activity that is welcoming, accommodating and exciting.
Emily and her family came to the Downtown Sailing Center in the summer of 2011 with the Lollipop Kids Foundation. Emily has a rare disease known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy which has led her to be dependent on feeding tubes and other medical devices. Her disease has not slowed Emily down and she is an active, vibrant young girl who decided sailing would be a great way to spend her sixth birthday.
When Emily arrived her nurse and parents were apprehensive of how her device could get on the boat. The instructors figured out a plan unique for Emily and were successful in getting her and her family out on the water.
The family set out thinking Emily would only last a few minutes. An hour later they were still out appreciating the beautiful weather and enjoying their time together. They returned so happy and excited about their experience they even posted it to their blog, http://www.hopeforemily.com. Emily and her family are a great example of how sailing can truly provide families with critically ill children a unique respite from their everyday struggles.
Emily is still going strong to this day and is living her life to the fullest; we hope to see her and her family on the water again soon.
Ed describes the day in the life an accessible sailor.
As a wheelchair user, I often have to ask someone to open a door for me, or move a chair so that I can park closer to a table, or reach a can of soup from a grocery store shelf. As an Access Dinghy sailor I can ask a passenger: ‘Where can I take you?’ What a glorious reversal of roles.
I don’t think that our DSC volunteers are aware how much they enrich the lives of sailors with disabilities. Just look at the empty wheelchairs that line the dock as people with disabilities are out sailing. And then try to get them in when the time is over! The same scene week after week.