Adaptive Water Skiing


For Winning Wheels and STRIVE residents, therapy is an adventure. All of the hard work that goes into successfully attaining therapy goals in our on-site therapy gym is rewarded with off-site adventures.

A chance to participate in an adaptive water ski clinic was incentive for one resident to improve his upper body strength. The clinic requires participants to roll in the water from front to back unassisted. Winning Wheels staff worked with him at our local park district pool and he attained his goal of water skiing!

Eventually we will run out of "first's" at Winning Wheels! It was a very hot day (over 100 degrees) in July when Yvonne Ouillette and Jeff Conant, accompanied by Karla Belzer, Director of Therapeutic Recreation and Special Projects, drove to the Back Water Gamblers ski site on the Rock River near Rock Island, Il. Each year, the "Gamblers" in coordination with Genesis Medical Center host an adaptive water skiing clinic and this year, Wheels went! Upon arriving, they enjoyed a riverside picnic lunch and then were greeted by friendly volunteers. They were there to learn to water ski - adaptive style.

"They took the time to see what we needed," Jeff and Yvonne agreed, "and they seemed to have everything covered." First the skiers were evaluated to see what their specific needs were. For instance, Yvonne had outriggers on her ski and her seat included a back, whereas Jeff's ski consisted of one wide ski and he sat in a cage to be towed. They were taught hand signals they could use to communicate with the ski boat such as slower, faster, stop, back to dock, and turn around. Then it was out to the water. Jeff said there were spotters beside and starters behind him. He found himself having some trouble staying upright, so he asked to go a bit slower, and the problem was solved. Both Jeff and Yvonne said they felt completely safe at all times because while they were in the water, there were so many people close by. The water was very warm too and that made it more pleasant.

Karla was impressed with the size of the clinic as well as the support from all participating. "Each time a skier got up, volunteers, spectators, and other skiers cheered and clapped while the skier went by the staging area. We encountered many wonderful people who we now consider our friends."

"It was freedom, really. Normality." Said Yvonne, and Jeff said, "The people were awesome. People on my left. People on my right, and behind me on jet skis." Would they like to go again? "Absolutely!!"