Kids demonstrate spirit while sailing, hiking
By David Chow
The breeze was just right and the sun was shining. The waves were swift,
but light. It was indeed the perfect day to go sailing.
After two hours of sailboat preparation, plus
tent and barbeque set-up, staff and volunteers eagerly awaited the first
rush of children for the Disabled Sailing Association (DSA)
Kids Day event at Jericho Sailing Centre in Vancouver. This is the fourth
year for the event, which takes place in July and again in August.
The day was a coordinated effort between DSA and
the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society (BCMOS).
During Kids Days, children get to hike or sail in the morning, and
then, following a barbeque lunch, switch activities in the afternoon.
The combination of sailing and hiking presents a wonderful experience,
promoting, encouraging, and enabling children with disabilities to
become engaged and active members of the community.
DSA's Kids Day is about "getting kids out
to environments that their wheelchairs are not accessible to," said
Vanessa Esteves, Program Coordinator for BCMOS.
"We do a combination of hiking around the
Jericho Beach area, along with sailing at Jericho beach," she said.
"Basically it's a social day for kids and an awareness day that we
have. We have Kids TrailRiders, as well as sailboats that are
accessible to children."
During the hiking portion of Kids Day, kids use
the TrailRider, a hiking mobility device likened to a rickshaw that
affords unprecedented access to wilderness environments for people with
During the sailing portion, kids develop a sense
of freedom and independence," said DSA sailing instructor Emily
Major. She said kids "experience something on the water that they
ordinarily would not be able to do without this program."
With the help of the Martin 16, a specially
designed sailboat that features a high lift keel, adjustable seating,
and specialized control systems that make the boat both stable and
responsive, both children and adults with disabilities are able to enjoy
what the waters have to offer.
Eleven-year-old Emily Anderson, an active and
enthusiastic participant, was on hand for her second Kids Day
adventure. Emily has already been sailing for three years and has even
participated in DSA organized competitive regattas.
"It was fun," Emily said as she came
back from the shore to mingle with the other kids. She said she enjoyed
"being out in the water and seeing all the birds." Emily's mom
believes sailing provides a different point of view for Emily, who has a
mobility disability. "You don't need to use your legs when you are
sailing," her mom said.
The camaraderie, friendships and the scenery
keep Emily coming back to the water. Learning about water conditions,
trimming the sails and interacting with DSA volunteers give Emily skills
that enable her to become a full member of the community.
Learning, however, is reciprocal. Staff and
volunteers are able to see first-hand what kids with disabilities can
achieve. Seeing children cooperate and support one another while hiking
and sailing teaches adults, says Herb Ressor, a long-time volunteer of
DSA and Emily's sailing partner. Herb spends many hours volunteering for
DSA. He noted he "can't think of anything that makes a day more
worthwhile and more fulfilling than helping others."
Being on the water with kids gives Herb the
opportunity to interact with them at a different level and see a
different perspective. While they are out on the water, "They are
free," Herb says. "They say goodbye to their caregivers and
goodbye to their wheelchairs."
Like Emily and Herb, other kids and volunteers,
as well as staff and parents, share similar sentiments on the event.
Participant Ivan Wangasaputra enjoyed both
activities, although he gave a slight edge to hiking due to the sheer
relaxation of the hike. High school student Yan Qing volunteered last
year and had so much fun that she recruited her friend Angela Cao to
volunteer with her this year.
Ivan was initially skeptical of the TrailRider,
but he quickly found that it was comfortable and accessible. When he
jumped into the Martin 16 for the sailing adventure, he showed no
evidence of first-time jitters.
Along with their assistance in transferring the
sailboats from the boat to the water, Yan and Angela provided the kids
with encouragement and moral support.
Sailing provides kids the opportunity to enjoy
the water, the views, the wind and a true feeling of adventure. The
associated freedom and independence that the kids experience make the
event all the more worthwhile. DSA and BCMOS staff also experience a
reward for their labours - laughter and smiles on the faces of kids,
volunteers, staff, and parents.