Although Karen Bacik’s grandson Jimmy Galpin, 9, is blind, he learned in past years to slalom water ski.
Standing alongside the river with Ms Bacik, Jimmy was in a hurry to get out on the Lake Zoar for another run on Thursday, July 31, during the Freedom Splash, an adaptive water skiing event for children with special needs. The Leaps of Faith (LOF) Adaptive Skiers hosted the event, which welcomed children from Newtown and surrounding towns.
“The kids are having an awesome time,” said event coordinator Sarina Moghadan.
LOF Executive Director Joel Zeisler explained, “Freedom Splash is a new program for us this year. Within days of advertising this water sports event, it was completely sold out so we knew we had created something that resonated with both parents and children.” He looks forward to hosting this event again. The clinic was open to children ages 6-17, and was offered free of charge.
Listening to the motorboats zipping across the water with children’s laughter in tow, Jimmy said he would rather ski than tube. Skiing offers “a lot more control” than a tube, he said. And he intends to ski for as many years as possible. Even at nine years old he thought far ahead, saying he will still be skiing.
“I’ll do this until I am old,” he said.
Waiting their turn on a tube were father and son Tom and Eamonn Murphy of Brookfield. Watching the boats and kids slide by on the lake, Tom tightened his son’s safety vest. A few minutes later, the two were together on a tube.
Mr Zeisler eased away from the dock and gradually increased speed until water splashed and Eamonn and his father bounced across the wake.
On the first run for the Murphys earlier that day, Mr Murphy said his son did great.
“He loves the water,” he added.
Seated at the dock was John Lott and his son John, an autistic young man. Getting him into the water, which was cold, was difficult Mr Lott said, but regarding the tubing, he said, “I knew he would love to do it.”
Once his son tried the tube, he was ready to go, Mr Lott said, “That makes a good ending.”
As Mr Zeisler navigated the lake, he said that the day was a special event, and he never realized the number of children with special needs. The goal of Freedom Splash was to use water sports activities to enhance the physical fitness and independence of children with special needs or disabilities.
Turning to look back toward volunteer Joey Corrod, who was sharing a tube ride with clinic participant Dave Dally, Mr Zeisler shouted, “Is that fast enough?”
“Hit it,” Joey said.