Leaving your wheelchair behind on the dock
Over the summer, they came to a Hyannis dock from all kinds of backgrounds. Some had physical disabilities, some had cognitive challenges. Others were children being raised by grandparents or the children of military families.
The one thing they had in common was a wish to have the experience of sailing on Cape Cod waters – and that’s a dream that Sail Cape Cod makes happen.
“It’s very rewarding to see the reaction on their faces. They love being out there,” said sailing instructor D.J. Faivre, a sophomore at South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell.
“Every person that came out left with a smile, no matter how much trepidation they had when they arrived,” said Jim Hoar, program director for Sail Cape Cod, who is a retired special education teacher. “They couldn’t wait to come back, and some of them did. You had to see it to believe it. We had a waiting list all summer. We’ve had an awesome summer.”
About 60 people went out in Sail Cape Cod’s two adaptive sailboats, according to SCC board member, Richard Bianco, who is director of IT business management for Cape Cod Healthcare. Bianco is a volunteer on an SCC safety boat, which accompanies the adaptive boats. He approached Cape Cod Healthcare about helping to sponsor the program.
“It’s so powerful to see someone lifted out of the wheelchair and go off on the water, leaving their wheelchair on the dock, and to see their faces and hear their stories,” he said. “Why wouldn’t anyone want to help with that?”
People who are cognitively or physically challenged want the opportunity as much as anyone else, he said.
“It can affect someone’s outlook on their abilities or disabilities. It can be life-changing.”
The boats have special seating for people with physical challenges. The guests are taken out by Sail Cape Cod staff members who are certified US Sailing instructors.
Cape Cod Healthcare’s ongoing support of Sail Cape Cod was recently recognized during a dedication ceremony for Sneakers, a boat with a sail that carries the Cape Cod Healthcare logo. Charlie McLaughlin, the first president of Sail Cape Cod, delivered the dedication toast at the Gary Brown Boat Ramp on Lewis Bay Road in Hyannis, just down the street from Cape Cod Hospital.
“This whole concept was a dream many years ago,” he said. “We started with a great group with a passion and love for this sport. We’re thrilled this boat will be used for this purpose.”
Sneakers, a J-22, was donated by Hyannis Yacht Club, in honor of HYC member Rob Tucker, who died in 2012 and had long supported the Special Olympics. The boat was substantially renovated by Judy Fenner Marine in Hyannis.
“Rob would have loved what’s happened to the boat,” Fenner said. “Working on it, I felt like he was right there with me.”
Sail Cape Cod’s first adaptive boat, Lila, has been in use since 2015.
“People live on Cape Cod for a reason,” Bianco said. “Like a lot of people, I live here because I love being out on the water. We’re surrounded by all this shoreline and the water beckons.”
Julie Drake, director of rehabilitation services at Cape Cod Hospital, said the feedback about the program has been very positive.
“They were so appreciative. We’re honored to be involved.”
[Featured Photo: Cape Cod Healthcare’s Julie Drake and Rich Bianco with a Sail Cape Cod burgee flag.]