SHAKOPEE, Minn. – With an audience of enthusiastic fans, Thomas Gregory got into a lake for the first time since a diving accident left him unable to walk 30 years ago.
“Since I was a teenager on two feet, this was cool,” said Gregory.
Gregory and 14-year-old Mitchell Tanquist are adaptive skiers participating at the Shockwaves Adaptive Ski Squad Clinic in Shakopee. The clinic is free of charge and is run completely by volunteers from the Shakopee-Prior Lake Water Skiiing Association, who have a shared desire to bring an experience to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it.
“I think the true measure of a community is how it treats its disabled,” said Shockwaves ski coordinator Kevin Burkart.
Each skier gets fitted to their rig and safety is the top priority. There are side skiers next to every adaptive skier and jumpers on jet skis close by. There is even a sheriff’s boat in case of an emergency, all to make sure that the only thing turning up are spirits.
“We’re enabling smiles by enabling people,” said Burkart.
Burkart is an adaptive athlete himself and knows how important events like this can be.
“Five years ago, I had a snowmobile accident and loss the use of my arm,” said Burkart. “For someone that has lost abilities, if they are able to find ways to do things that others do and do them just as well, it really nurtures the soul.”
And nowhere is that shown more than on the smiling faces that are at a loss for words.
“It really was amazing, I can’t explain it,” said Gregory. “Just to be out there in the lake water, it’s an experience I haven’t had in 30 years.”
For more information on the next clinic or how to get involved click the link: http://www.splwsa.org/page/show/3420397-adaptive-ski