Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Glorious Day on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia

Bo Tanner reports on the experience and results for the Holyoke Rows team participation in the 30th annual Bayada Regatta in Philadelphia on August 20. Luckily, the event was one week before
tropical storm Irene hit Philadelphia!

Holyoke Rows team from left to right: Jim Sliski, Ben Kidston, T,
Bo Tanner, Carlos Gonzalez, Stephanie Moore, and Jim Brooks.

Five members of the Holyoke Rows adaptive rowing team and coach Stephanie Moore traveled south on Friday August 19th for some fun in the sun and heavy duty competition at the nations only adaptive only regatta. That’s right, the able bodied athletes had to sit this one out and watch the fierce competition. We started with the Jolly Up cocktail party receiving information on the course, races, rule changes, and greeting old friends. The athletes were also informed that around half of the Paralympic rowing team were competing in this regatta as a warm-up for the world competition starting on the following Monday in Croatia. Yikes! I hoped all that training this summer would pay off! We got an unexpected surprise when our little buddy T showed up at the party with his mom, our coach, Stephanie Moore. This was a boost for the athletes as T is one of our biggest supporters at the Holyoke boathouse, and a great man in the pit crew. Just the week before 8-year-old T rowed a single by himself on the Connecticut River with a swift current.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The 'Horse' Power

Emily Piccirilli just finished her second summer with DCR's Universal Access Program serving as an office clerk and providing registration and support at programs. As an avid horseback rider, she recently visited our small by mighty riding program at Bradley Palmer State Park. Here is her Guest Post perspective on the program!
Someone once told me that there is a healing ability within horses. Whether you have a disability or you just need time away from the stresses of life, horses have a way with a person that is magical. A "man's best friend" may be even better applied to horses. They have a way of boosting the confidence within yourself, and sensing your emotions and abilities. When a relationship is formed between horse and rider the healing is endless.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting Ready for the Regatta

Bo Tanner (wearing last year's Bayada Regatta t-shirt!)
and Jim Sliski clean boats in preparation for the Regatta.
Today was a lovely August day for a perfect visit at the Jones Ferry Access Center in Holyoke! When I arrived, a few older women were getting kayak lessons on the Connecticut River, which was smooth under a sunny sky with clouds. When I left a few hours later, a busy boat washing was taking place in front of the boathouse, where three adaptive rowers were getting ready for the Bayada Regatta coming up this weekend in Philadelphia.

Jim Sliski, Jim Brooks and Bo Tanner have been rowing - and competing - for several years now, using the Jones Ferry Access Center run by Holyoke Rows. Jim Sliski started rowing with DCR's Universal Access Program in 1996 upriver in Northampton, and has been a steady presence on the water ever since. He is competing this weekend though admits his "stamina is not great "as various health challenges have slowed down his training in the last year. Jim Brooks has had a "great summer" and is looking forward to Philadelphia. Bo is racing in three races, in doubles with partners and a singles race. Best wishes to all three this weekend!!!

Bo takes a light training run on the river today
after weeks of steady training.
Holyoke Rows is a non-profit organization I sometimes think of as a pseudonym for Stephanie Moore, the soft-spoken mother of four who tapped into local resources to convert a rundown river front into a thriving recreational community center just east of the Holyoke Mall. A firm believer in "access for all", Stephanie has made a traditionally elite sport available to an often disadvantaged local demographic that includes city kids, seniors, and people with disabilities.
The Bayada Regatta is an internationally famous adaptive rowing competition, now in its 30th year. It is the oldest and largest adaptive rowing competition in the U.S. This year's Regatta takes place Saturday, August 20, from 8am-4pm.  Holyoke Rows will run its annual Paper City Regatta this year on September 25 at the Jones Ferry Access Center. I'm sure we'll see both Jims and Bo at this race too!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Great Gear You Can Use! - in State Parks!

Sun worship at Salisbury Beach State Reservation.
There is still plenty of time to enjoy the beach this season! Most coastal New England states offer beach wheelchairs at state parks. Styles may vary but usually require someone to push. Chairs are designed to get you TO the water, assistance may be necessary to get INTO the water.

Massachusetts State Parks: Over 40 parks offer beach wheelchairs on the ocean and inland! Beach wheelchairs are made of PVC pipe and feature a movable arm for transfers and large balloon tires for travel across sand to the water. No fee to use – bring someone to push the chair. Reservations are sometimes required and always recommended. Contact the park directly. Click here for a list of parks with beach wheelchairs.

Connecticut State Parks: Five parks - Hammonasset Beach, Rocky Neck, Sherwood Island, Silver Sands and Squantz Pond - have beach wheelchairs available for visitors. The chairs are free of charge and are on a first come, first serve basis.

Rhode Island State Parks:  Beach wheelchairs are available free of charge, also on a first come, first serve basis, at the following R.I. state beach locations; Scarborough North, Scarborough South, and Roger Wheeler.

Maine State Parks: At least 2 state parks in the southern region advertise beach wheelchairs. Call the regional headquarters in Augusta at 207-624-6080 for more information about beach wheelchairs at Crescent Beach State Park (near Portland) and Popham Beach State Park (near Bath).

Perforrmance style handcycle available to ride in R.I.
There are two New England locations worth knowing where you can use a state-provided handcycle to ride beautiful coastal areas!

Cape Cod Rail Trail - Rent a handcycle and ride through several Cape Cod towns on forested paths! You can also explore adjacent Nickerson State Park bike paths. Two adult touring models (Quickie Mach 3) available at Cape Cod Rail Trail Bike Shop.

East Bay Bike Path -  On a first come, first serve basis, two hand cycles are available at Colt State Park for use through out the park or for the East Bay Bike path in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Ice Sled in use at Buffone Arena in Worcester.
Surprised? Some ice rinks are open year round and offer wonderful respite from the heat or an alternative rainy day activity. Many state rinks in Massachusetts offer ice sleds for seated skating, with short hockey sticks with picks for self -propulsion and an attachable stroller bar for those who need to be pushed. Check out public skating times on-line for each rink. No fee to use sleds, rink admission fee may apply. Recommended  year round rinks:

Jim Roche Community Ice Arena in West Roxbury - currently 7 sleds with 7 handles through October 6th.

Smead Skating Arena in Springfield - currently 4 sleds with 2 handles year round.

Buffone Arena in Worcester - currently 4 sleds with 2 handles year round.

Armstrong Skating Arena in Plymouth - currently 2 sleds with 1 handle year round.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Creating Ability Offers High Quality Kayak Adaptations

Creating Ability kayak set up with pontoons and low back
seat in use at D.A.R. State Forest in Goshen.
It is challenging to post with peak time in summer recreation activities taking place now, but here is a quick look at kayaking. In particular, we are putting some new kayaks from Creating Ability into good use at our kayak programs in Concord, Worcester and the Berkshires.

I was thrilled to discover Creating Ability last summer and purchase some kayaks with pontoons and adaptive seating this year. The design is the best I've seen for pontoons on kayaks, which provide greater stability for more vulnerable paddlers. I especially like the independence these boats offer to paddlers who might otherwise have to be in a tandem for the stability reasons or struggle to paddle independently with compromised stability and comfort. The boats come with color coordinated pontoons in a complete package - very nice!

Paddler struggling with balance and proper seating could
benefit from pontoons and more formal adaptive seating.
The adaptive seat offers good trunk support for those who need it. The high back can be easily removed. Both low back and high back sides adjust in and out to accommodate narrower and wider bodies. The seats can be angled or straight depending on preference and comfort. The addition of a Jackson "sweet cheeks" cushion, which easily fits to your specific anatomy, adds a final level of comfort. I'm surprised people are willing to get out of these kayaks when their sessions are over!

Other recreation organizations in Massachusetts that have been acquiring kayaks from Creating Ability this year include All Out Adventures, Holyoke Rows, and Waypoint Adventure. These boats are making their way into a variety of kayak fleets! Thanks again to Ralphe Marche of New England Handicapped Sports Association for showing me this great equipment last summer!

If you are looking for better grip adaptation for kayak paddles, you may not need to look further than Creating Ability. For years we've been making do with home-made adaptations that help hold hands to paddles while still allowing them to slip out easily. Charlie Croteau makes a great hand adaptation for people who are quadriplegic but doesn't mass market it. Creating Ability provides three good solutions for common hand adaptions needed in paddling - a simple grip support to keep fingers on paddle, a more involved wrist and grip support for people who are quadriplegic, and a way for one armed or hemiplegic paddlers to succeed. This last adaptation is currently going through a design change so we are still waiting to try it out. Check it all out on their website: