Adapted Sailing Program a Success

  • Posted on: 4 November 2013
  • By: Gary Schneidman

Helen Hayes Hospital and the Nyack Boat Club recently partnered to host their eighth annual Adapted Sailing Program. This popular program attracts individuals with physical disabilities from throughout the New York metropolitan region for a comprehensive educational workshop and a day sailing on the magnificent Hudson River.

The 103-year-old Club, which sustained significant damage in Hurricane Sandy, rallied to get all of the ramps and docks ready and for the group of 32 sailors. “Members of the Club’s Sonar Fleet volunteer their time and their boats, as well as their expertise for the day, “ says Jan Crittenden, Nyack Boat Club Member and co-coordinator of the event. “It’s a great way of introducing sailing to someone who may not have thought it was possible, especially because the Sonars are ideally designed for someone who may have a physical limitation.” The Club graciously invited anyone participating in the program to return that weekend to board sightseeing boats for the Club’s first regatta of the season, the Tappan Zee Challenge.

The Adapted Sailing program is part of the Hospital’s Adapted Sports and Recreation program, which recently became certified as a U.S. Paralympic Sports Club. Helen Hayes Hospital therapists also volunteer their efforts, assisting with transferring participants into the boats, helping with any necessary assistive devices and ensuring a safe and fun day for all. “We pre-screen everyone for adaptive equipment, provide an introductory skills workshop and get everyone involved at a post roundtable discussion to talk about the experience,” says Matt Castelluccio, Helen Hayes Hospital Adapted Sports Coordinator.

The fledgling sailors included individuals who had sustained spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as individuals who have had a stroke, are recuperating from orthopedic surgery or are living with other neurological disorders. The entire program is free of charge to participants and offers an ideal opportunity to not only learn about sailing, but also to socialize and meet people with similar challenges. “Through adaptive sports, people can see that they can return to activities they may have enjoyed prior to becoming disabled, or can take up a new sport,” explains Castelluccio.

Several participants took the time to express their feeling about the sailing experience. Tim said, “I can't thank you all enough, the last two days have been great for me and my wife. Everyone involved with the adaptive sailing clinic couldn't have been nicer, more professional, caring and attentive. Yesterday on the water was the first time in a long time that I didn't think of my legs or my body at all. I was out sailing with a great crew.”

Echoing this feedback were Merilyn and Stanley who stated, “We want to thank you for a wonderful experience that will long be remembered. Everyone was prepared for every possibility and you all made us feel welcome and wanted, no matter how difficult it was to get on and off the sailboat. For one glorious day, my husband felt whole, safe and appreciated again.”

The Nyack Boat Club and Helen Hayes Hospital look forward to hosting the Adapted Sailing program once again next May.

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