Lake Fun for Kids with Disabilities
There is nothing that puts a smile on my face more than seeing the joy adaptive sport can bring to others. It’s the whole reason we founded the charity, Access Adventures. So far, we have only been able to deliver camps for adults, but this year were in a position to host our first under-18s event. It was definitely a success, and my smile was a little wider than usual!
Five young people with disabilities travelled with their families to Heron Lake, from all over the UK. The age range was 7 to 17. Most of the kids looked extremely nervous on arrival – completely understandable as it can be daunting trying something new – you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone, which doesn’t always feel great. However, I know from experience that it’s totally worth it!
Our most experienced and qualified volunteers were in attendance to ensure safety and inspire confidence. We took our time with the kit set-up, making sure each child felt comfortable and understood what was going to happen. One of the Access Adventures staff is a physiotherapist and has a great eye for correct seating position. Like with most adaptive sports, getting the right set-up is crucial to success for the individual.
The seated skiers have a trained instructor either side of them to begin with – this provides a stable platform and means it’s very easy to communicate with the student the whole time. Psychologically, it’s comforting to have someone beside you. There is also a very experienced boat crew; the boat driver and observer work together to make it an extremely safe environment.
All the kids were fantastic. It was just amazing to see that initial nervousness transformed into pure elation after their first ski session! The parents were initially anxious as well. I spoke to them all on the phone beforehand to answer any questions and alleviate fears. Some of them went in the boat while their child skied, so they were close to the action.
Feedback showed that people with a disabled child often found it difficult to do an activity together as a family. For this camp, siblings were also invited to come along and take part. To be able to get all the young children out on the water was fantastic, the excitement was shared with the whole family.
The atmosphere was electric all day, assisted by some lovely sunshine (never guaranteed in this country!) There is a cordoned-off swimming area with a huge inflatable water trampoline, a water slide and small kayaks for the kids to play with.
On a personal note – I had asked my niece & nephew to help out on the day. Even though they know about my own life and capabilities in a wheelchair, I think it’s important for them to be around children their own age with disabilities, to really consider the implications. It was incredibly heart-warming to see them dashing around playing a game of tag – able-bodied and disabled children together.
The social setting gave the families an opportunity to get to know each other, being around people in a similar situation can be so beneficial - sharing stories and experiences. We finished of the day with a big BBQ, all eating together around a long table. As one of the parents quoted:
“It was a lovely way to end a great day with some amazing people. It was a fantastic experience and we can’t wait to come back next time”
The camp was slightly more challenging than usual, simply because of the extra responsibility and safety considerations. However, the feeling at the end of the camp was more rewarding than any other before.
It proved there is a big demand for this kind of activity camp for kids; we would love to do more of them. We strongly believe that all disabled children’s lives should be full of fun, friendship and hope for an independent future, just like any other kid’s.