‘Anything Is Possible’ For Disabled Water Skiers

“One more time?” asked Leaps of Faith Disabled Waterski Club President Joel Zeisler.

Calling back from the water where he clung to a ski rope, Avi Golden said, “Two more times. Three more times.” Moments earlier he had managed to lift himself out of a crouch and water ski briefly before the rope slipped his grasp. Excited to have been up on the surf ski after repeatedly losing his balance, Mr Golden was ready to try again. He gave a smile and a thumbs up to Mr Zeisler, who positioned the boat for another run.

Mr Brown was among a large group to participate in the Leaps of Faith clinic Thursday, August 22. Clinics run by volunteers and open to disabled skiers are free to participants. Mr Zeisler and volunteers use adaptive ski equipment and techniques to make skiing possible for people with, disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and more. Thursday’s group included those who receive therapy through Helen Hayes Hospital in New York.

Among those waiting on shore and tightening life vests was Ross Savage, suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. He had skied only once before, about a month ago with Mr Zeissler’s club, he said. Matthew Castellucio, who uses a wheelchair, runs adaptive clinics at Helen Hayes, and had met Mr Zeisler several year’s after his injury. After a ski clinic at that time, he said, “I got hooked.”

Director of Recreational Therapy at Helen Hayes, Eileen Andreassi said the day Thursday was “gorgeous.” The morning was “perfect for skiers,” she said, noting the multiple levels of participants’ abilities and function.  Some skiers such as Mr Golden were stroke victims, vision impaired, quadriplegics, and paraplegics, or had lost a leg.

What does skiing do for them? Mr Castelluccio said skiers are challenged to use balance and strength, and they also “find freedom behind the boat.” The ski clinics are social events that provide both emotional and psychological benefits.”

Although he had skied before his injury, he did not think he would be able to do it again, but has learned that “anything is possible.”

Partially paralyzed, skier William Browsell had skied once before in 1969. His second time was August 22. “I can’t wait,” he said.

George Taborsky skied earlier that day saying the experience was “beautiful. It was great to be out.” He had skied before his injury and has joined the Leaps of Faith clinics in the past.

On the water with Mr Zeisler and helping Mr Golden was volunteer Meg Pettit, working her first summer with Mr Zeissler. Once Mr Golden’s run was through, she helped him out of the lake and they sat together at the back of the boat as water from the engine sprayed behind them.

Describing his time on the ski, Mr Golden said, “Awesome. Awesome. Back on shore he spoke with Scott Hadley, missing a leg, who both skis and volunteers with the Leaps of Faith. He volunteered during a snow ski clinic over the winter.

According to LeapsOfFaithWaterSkiers.com, “Since its founding in 1992, Leaps of Faith has provided adaptive sports programs for children, adults and veterans with all types of disabilities, at absolutely no cost to the participants. Experience is never a requirement of our participants. We thank all our dedicated volunteers, sponsors, donors and supporters for making Leaps of Faith Disabled Skiers a premier waterskiing organization and helping us achieve excellence in serving the disabled community.” Visit their website to learn more.

More stories like this: Leaps of Faith, Disabled Skiers, Joel Zeisler
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