Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Think Sailing!

This month, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick paid a visit to Community Boating, Inc. on the Esplanade in Boston. Plans are afoot for a new dock on the Charles River with funding support from the Commonwealth and private donors. Although arrangements are not final, the Governor's presence indicates a level of commitment that is promising, and it is possible that a new dock might even be in place next year.

In the meantime, adaptive sailing will continue as usual at Community Boating this summer. The program will get underway daily starting June 15 and run through August 30. If you live in the greater Boston area or are planning a visit, consider a sailing lesson or experience as a new adventure in the city! If you think sailing is a sport only for those who can afford it, think again! It only costs $1 to participate! If you are already an experienced sailor, you may be able to get out on the water sooner as Community Boating has already been taking advantage of our beautiful spring weather to get their boats out on the Charles. Several sailors with disabilities have obtained various sailing certifications through CBI's classes, and hundreds have enjoyed sailing on the Charles River in the past few years.

To sign up for sailing, contact Marcin Kunicki at CBI at 617-523-1038 or visit

Partially shown in the photo is a modified Mercury sailboat for one or two sailors, rigged for use by a person in one position on the boat, with hand controls and believe it or not, a steering wheel. The program also makes use of adapted Sonar sailboats which can seat about 8 people. Charlie Zechel, president of CBI, discusses adaptive sailing with the Governor while, Gigi Ranno, seated, looks on. Gigi, who works in DCR's Universal Access Program, was instrumental in helping Community Boating to develop the adaptive sailing program. The Governor met several people with disabilities who sail with Community Boating during his visit.

"The Esplanade and Community Boating - the oldest and biggest public sailing program in the nation - are two Massachusetts treasures," said Governor Patrick. "I am happy to pledge the state's support in this public-private effort to ensure that the pleasure of sailing on the Charles River remains available to all."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adaptive Recreation in Connecticut - One Stop Shopping!

Connecticut residents take note!

The Gaylord Hospital Sports Association is offering a Discovery Night on Tuesday, May 4 from 6-7:30pm. Here's a great chance to learn about statewide adaptive sports and recreation opportunities -golf, tennis, quad rugby, kayaking, cycling, archery, skiing, soaring, and more! I am particularly intrigued by "soaring". What is that?

The Sports Association offers a variety of indoor and outdoor workshops and clinics for individual and team activities throughout the year. Most of their events are free and open to adults with physical disabilities. Discovery Night will feature all their programs and more adaptive sports and recreation opportunities from other providers around the state. Call 203-284-2772 to register for this event located in Wallingford. Say "hi!" to Todd Munn for me - he is the Sports Association Coordinator and will be happy to answer any questions and sign you up.

The Sports Association is on facebook too - log on at and become a fan of "Sports Association, Gaylord Hospital".

Photo courtesy of Todd Munn.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Ducks at Montezuma

If you are driving across New York state on the Thruway as I was this week, a nice diversion to break up the drive is the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge near Syracuse, which is bisected by I-90. In an easy hour or so, you can stop in at the accessible visitor center, take a road tour of the refuge with a few stops to view the expansive wetlands, and use the accessible viewing scope at May's Point before getting back on the road.

My timing couldn't have been more perfect in mid-April to hit a nice wave of ducks in migration. It was a glorious sunny afternoon. Tree swallows were cavorting on the wind around the visitor center and checking out the bird boxes. These and the osprey soaring over the center were the first sightings of these two species of the year for me. After a quick pitstop, I took the road tour and stopped at the first open wetland I came upon.

At first glance, there appeared to be zero waterfowl amidst the emerging grasses on a breezy day. With optics, a wide array ducks became apparent. For 20 minutes I oogled over blue-winged and green-winged teal, northern shovelers, northern pintails, and redhead ducks. The redheads were the bird of the day for me. They rarely if ever show up in New England. The males were glossy with water from dunking their heads underwater, so much so that they looked glazed in clear lacquer. Their gold eyes gleamed metallic against their coppery heads. It was a visual feast to take in a selection of ducks in great lighting.

By the end of my diversion, back on the highway, I had added wood ducks, lesser yellowlegs, Wilson's snipe, an American Kestrel, great egrets, ring-necked ducks, mute swans, a bald eagle nest and osprey on the nest to my lengthening bird list. Spring has sprung!

Redhead photo courtesy of photographer Tom Reichner and Ducks Unlimited.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Help Me Raise Money for Athletes With Disabilities!

Recently I was contacted by Plastics Makes It Possible to help raise money for the Athletes With Disabilities Network. This is an invitation to bloggers to support a great cause - the blogger who raises the most money will have $5000 donated in their name by Plastics Makes It Possible to the ADN.
The ADN is a successful Michigan-based network of recreation partners that offers team sports, extreme sports, and mentoring for youth, in addition to a wide variety of recreation activities. The ADN is seeking greater national awareness and has recently opened its eleven year old Hall of Fame to include people with disabilities from across the country.

If you make a donation from my blog by April 30th - there is a place in the sidebar - your support of a terrific adaptive sports and recreation program might also increase visibility for Everyone Outdoors.

Plastics Makes It Possible is an initiative of the American Chemistry Council, which strongly supports ADN's mission to promote better quality of life by creating opportunities for people with disabilities. Plastics are crucial to so many of our everyday medical and safety products and they also are vital components in the innovative sports and recreation equipment and prosthetic devices used by many people with disabilities.
Two-time Paralympian and Desert Storm veteran John Register is working with Plastics Makes It Possible to help ADN raise over $25,000. John is a track and field athlete who lost a leg due to the complications from an injury sustained while hurdling. After rehabilitation he qualified to swim in the the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, then won the silver medal in the long jump at the 2000 Games in Sydney. He continues to support athletes with disabilities through inspirational speaking, direct work with veterans, and managing the Paralympic Academy Youth Outreach Program. Thanks John!
And thanks for YOUR help in supporting athletes with disabilities!!! Please visit the sidebar and make a donation!

FestiFools Celebration in Ann Arbor

April Fools Day can extend well into the month in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the 4th annual FestiFools Parade took place on Sunday, April 11. This one hour parade on Main Street is rapidly becoming a community spring frolic, celebrating foolishness of all sorts with puppets of all sizes and interactive play between the parade and the audience. Advertised as "free and accessible to all", the event attracted not only my mother, brother and I, but thousands of people who crowded the downtown sidewalks for the spirit lifting experience.

Before the parade started, I noticed an empty wheelchair pushed by a woman who's older mother walked alongside to wherever they were going to station themselves. Otherwise I didn't see any other wheelchair users until later in the parade when a long line of kids who had built robot costumes out of cardboard boxes appeared. I think they had all participated in a costume making party at the library prior to the event. Mixed in was one child in a wheelchair, who thankfully made the event truly visibly inclusive.

With so much energy going into the immensely fun aspects of the event, I couldn't tell how much thought has gone into developing greater inclusion. The streets were so crowded that attendees with physical disabilities need to arrive early to get good curbside spots. Event organizers might consider designating some sections for specific use by people using wheelchairs to view if these don't already exist. I hope to see more wheelchair users and other people with disabilities in the parade in future years. As we left I noticed an ambulatory teen aged girl with developmental delay alongside her mother on the sidelines. People with disabilities were certainly present! I hope their attendance will grow as FestiFools does.

Behind the Scene Kayak Adaptations

While visiting family in Ann Arbor last week, I stopped in as usual at Danmar Products, a business formerly co-originated and owned by my father who now inhabits its industrial recesses as the resident inventor. He is a catalyst of creativity there and his expansive thoughts and tinkering help keep the place thriving even while the economy languishes. Danmar manufactures all kinds of adaptive and special niche products, many used in therapeutic settings.
My father considers ideas we discuss in casual conversations about recreation needs I sometimes bring up based on my job. He has a current special interest in finding uses for the scrap foam left over from the manufacture of other products at the plant. Up until now the plant had thrown away up to $40,000 worth of scrap foam a year! Now, as my father so wittily says, they are making great use of "second pressings" for a variety of supportive uses.

On this visit he presented me with a series of waterproof bolsters in assorted sizes that use scrap foam for filler. He had a couple sets sewn for me to test in our program that are designed to provide enhanced support and additional cushioning for people in kayaks. Just sitting in a kayak on the floor with these added cushions felt not only far more comfortable for me, but like a great start to the paddling season.
As if that weren't enough, he also put his creative resources to work to come up with an ingenious prototype for creating better kayak flotation using commonly found items so that when boats tip over most of the water is displaced and they can be easily set afloat again. And last, but not least, he also produced a giant hockey puck prototype for use in our power chair on ice program! Thanks Dad! And thanks to Bill Bonds for puck prototype design and fabrication, Tim Mullins for great input on flotation engineering, Debbie Huber for sewing the bags, and Karen Lindner for taking a couple of snapshots. I can hardly wait to get out on the water and back in the rink to test these new designs!