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Participants refuse to let disabilities get in the way during kayaking event

August 31, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Arc of Washington County Day Program participant Greg Munch kayaks Friday morning at Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area.
By Joe Crocetta / Staff Photographer

Rick Seeley of Hagerstown — who is paralyzed on the left side of his body due to a motorcycle accident in 1975 — did not let his disabilities keep him from kayaking Friday at an event held by the Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation. 

“It was a lot of fun being in the water in a boat,” he said.

Seeley, 54, got in the front of the kayak and rowed with his right hand while being assisted by two other people.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get in a boat,” he said.

The event at Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area was for members of The Arc of Washington County, which works with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Eight of its members showed up along with eight volunteer workers.

Two Top Mountain Executive Director Bill Dietrich said that the goal of the event was for the participants to have fun and to learn about balancing the kayak while in it.

“We are trying to get them to understand the stroking through the paddling motion, getting it to go in a straight line,” Dietrich said. 

For every participant kayaking, there had to be a volunteer out, as well.

Dietrich founded the Two Top Mountain program in 2007 to teach winter sports at Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, Pa., to those with physical disabilities before it expanded to include summer programs in 2009.

He said the program has worked with the Arc for the past three years to hold a kayaking event at Indian Springs, but this is the first event of 2013.

James Link of Hagerstown said this is his sixth kayaking trip with the Arc.

“I just like kayaking and having fun with friends,” said Link, 40.

Dietrich said that it is important to emphasize safety when teaching kayaking.

“The object is to not go swimming, when we’re out kayaking,” he said. “The object is to stay on the boat and keep it upright, so we’re trying to show them how balancing in the kayaking is important.”

He said that the event Friday was a way for the Arc members to change their daily routine.

“I’m pretty sure that these guys weren’t out playing in the water (Thursday),” he said. “This is something different.”

Greg Munch, 44, of Hagerstown said it was his first kayaking event with the Arc.

“It’s a pretty day, and I like to get out in nature,” he said. “I kayaked another place, and it was fun.”

Trevor Smith, 29, of Hagerstown said that it was also his first kayaking trip with the Arc.

“Maybe we’ll run across ‘Nessie’ (the Loch Ness Monster),” he joked.

Merrill Pearson, who is a program specialist with day services at the Arc, said that she was hoping for the participants to “have a good time” and “have some memories.”

“What we’re trying to do is help people do what they want during the daytime,” Pearson said. “We’re just helping them to get out and do things that are fun and fulfilling and meaningful to them.”

Pearson — who said Friday was her first time kayaking with the participants — noted that the event allows them to prove that they can take part in many outdoor activities.

“When people hear kayak they think big outdoor adventure, huge waterfalls, and stuff that might not ordinarily be available to the folks that I work with,” she said. “It just goes to show that this kind of stuff is accessible for all kinds of people.”

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