By Yvette Pegues
Summer is a great time for children to participate in a wide variety of specialized activities. It’s also a great time for summer camps where they often enjoy outdoor activities, learn social/academic skills and develop lifetime relationships. I never went to camp as a child so when I was encouraged to attend an outdoor, recreational camp for individuals with disabilities as an adult, I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to engage in the various athletic activities in and out of my Jazzy Air® 2 Power Wheelchair. Being that the event was facilitated by a world-renown Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation facility, it was easy to take a chance. Participants in Shepherd Center’s annual Adventure Skills Workshop (ASW) are given the opportunity to choose from a number of sports and activities that includes tubing, jet ski, water ski, scuba diving, swimming, water polo, fishing, rugby, scaling a rock wall, ziplining, basketball, kayaking, riflery/skeet shoot, and kayaking as well as less vigorous activities like art, yoga, and an animal encounter. Adaptive sports equipment is provided, or participants may bring their own equipment.
The first adaptive sport I saw after my injury was wheelchair basketball. I’ll always remember rolling around the corner after therapy to see what all the commotion was about – only to find “gladiators on wheels” running into each other in pursuit of a round orange ball. The same enthusiasm and camaraderie was displayed by a group of fellow campers who encouraged me to raise my Jazzy Air 2 Power Chair to make the two-point shot. While I’m no LeBron or Colby, I’m loving the game now, more than ever before!
Though no adapted equipment was needed for me to scuba dive, there were two pool entry locations to transfer out of my wheelchair and onto the specialized mat at the edge of the pool where I safely dropped directly into the water. The second was to transfer into a mobile aquatic chair designed for swimming pools equipped with ramps and zero-depth entries or movable floors. In both cases, an experienced recreational therapist was available to assist campers from beginning to end. Certified scuba instructors taught me how to focus only on breathing in and out through my mouth allowing the regulator to do its job. Once I got that down, I used a powered sea scooter to move around quickly and effortlessly underwater.
I have never, ever handled a gun, so learning how to target/skeet shoot from my Jazzy Air 2 Power Wheelchair was quite challenge. For athletes who have difficulty holding, aiming, or shooting a gun or rifle, there are a variety of adaptive devices available. Every disability is different so there’s no one piece of equipment that will meet everyone’s needs. In my case, I learned that using my dominant eye gave me an advantage when the target is coming from the right side of my body. I also learned that the recline option on my Jazzy Air 2 Electric Wheelchair gave me a safe position to respond to the firearm’s recoil. I shot two out of four water-filled balloons at 500 feet away. I also hit one out of five moving clay targets, from 20-30 yards away, during skeet shooting and my power wheelchair didn’t even budge.
In addition, I tried jet skiing and water skiing, tubing and kayaking. The newest and most surprising experience was the ones where I spent more time being still! Yoga was an alternate activity during thunderstorms in the area, but quickly became the calm in my personal storm. The seated exercises from my Jazzy Air 2 Electric Wheelchair helped me to appreciate the therapeutic and tranquil peace of yoga, painting and painting tie-dye activities with old and new friends I’ve made at camp.