EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Children and adults with disabilities took to the waters of Reeds Lake Friday to learn sailing.
Mary Free Bed held its 11th Adaptive Sailing Clinic at the Grand Rapids Yacht Club.
The event provided training and specially designed boats that allow participants to overcome challenges and take part in the sport.
Christy VanHaver, a recreational therapist with Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports, said the program can have a tremendous impact.
“Water is the ultimate equalizer so you get, you get in a sailboat. You don’t need your wheelchair, you don’t need your crutches. You don’t even need your prosthetic legs or limbs. You just get in there and you’re like everybody else who sails a sailboat,” VanHaver said.
Two adaptive sailing boats were provided by the Traverse Area Community Sailing Club. They have an 80-pound daggerboard, which makes it more difficult to flip over, and a special rudder control inside the boat that is easier to reach.
“They are adapted to allow the person to transfer into the boat and then stay seated in one position to be able to sail everything. Move all the lines for the sails,” VanHaver said.
Jade Dixon sailed for the first time Friday at 8 years old.
“Doing it was really fun. It was cool being on a boat. I’ve only been on a kayak before,” Jade said.
Her mother Andrea Dixon says the clinic really makes an impact.
“There’s just really no limitations and that’s the great thing about these programs is that they just adapt,” Andrea Dixon said. “No matter what the disability may be are able to provide that opportunity for families and for individuals to just be able to be like anyone else.”
For more information on Mary Free Bed adaptive sports visit the program’s website.