More MS news articles for August 2001

Volunteers help group find new freedom

Adaptive sports program allows people with disabilities to safely paddle the local waters

August 1, 2001
Record-Eagle staff writer

TRAVERSE CITY - When Traverse City resident Tom Barnhart suffered a stroke more than three years ago, he thought his days of water activities were over.
But thanks to the Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation program and volunteers from the Cherry Capital Paddle America Club, Barnhart and 11 others with disabilities were out kayaking on Brown Bridge Pond Tuesday.
Twenty volunteers worked diligently in the afternoon heat and humidity Tuesday to launch 26 kayaks onto Brown Bridge Pond.
Twelve participants, each with disabilities such as blindness, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and stroke, were given the chance to kayak while a "buddy" followed along in another boat .
"When (they) get into a kayak, nobody knows what their disability is," said Ann Reichert, volunteer and coordinator of the event. "It kind of gives them a freedom they don't have on land."
Barnhart, 61, had enjoyed sailing before suffering from a stroke in January of 1998.
"When I had the stroke, I figured I was done with water activities," he said. "Then, when I tried this, I found I could get back to the water."
Barnhart went on his first kayaking excursion in 2000 and hopes to continue.
"With these people, it's safe," he said, referring to the volunteers helping out with Tuesday's kayaking trip.
This was the second kayaking trip for Jacqui Schlueter, 16, of Suttons Bay, who is usually confined to a wheelchair.
"It was fun," she said, adding that she really likes the people involved.
This program is not a rehabilitation program, said Reichert, who works as a physical therapist at Munson Medical Center.
Reichert said she got involved because "this is just kind of an extension of my interest in getting people as independent and doing as many things in the community as they possibly can."
Phil Curtis, president of the Cherry Capital Paddle America Club, said he and other members of the club became involved at the request of the adaptive sports organization.
"Our club is a source of instruction and volunteers who are trained to show people how to rescue themselves and rescue others when they capsize on their kayak or canoe," Curtis said.
Curtis and another member of the club were able to design an adaptation for one participant who was wheelchair-bound.
The Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation, a program run through Vital Choice at Munson, allows people with physical disabilities to enjoy a number of sports including water and snow skiing, canoeing, kayaking and golf, among others.
For more information about the Northern Michigan Adaptive Sports and Recreation program, call Reichert at 935-8684.

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