A Family Affair
For the past two summers I have had the pleasure of participating in the Sail To Prevail Program. My name is Maura Krueger, and I run the Partnership Program at the Oak Square YMCA in Brighton, MA. Our Program's mission is to help any member with a disability that interferes with their ability to independently complete a fitness program. Our participants represent persons with Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke recovery, developmental issues, Cerebral palsy as well as other weakened conditions.
The first time we sailed out of the Harvard boathouse onto the Charles River, one of the participants, who has been aggressively battling the effects of a stroke, commented within the first ten minutes that, "This is the most relaxed I have been in five years." Wow! What a success. Since that first experience, I have had the opportunity to take others for a sail on the Sail To Prevail boat. All have expressed that the experience was wonderful, relaxing, exciting and much needed amongst their daily routine of doctor visits, physical therapy appointments and medication side effects.
I believe the Sail To Prevail program will continue to be an asset to our Partnership Program at the Oak Square Y. My vision is to give families the opportunity to experience a relaxing activity together. A disability affects more than the immediate person. The daily stresses filter to the entire family. We must also consider the lifestyle change when one spouse is affected by a disability, changing the "dreams of retirement." If, through Sail To Prevail, I can give my members a day of an activity they thought was long gone - success again!
Thank you, Sail To Prevail.
Oak Square YMCA
Brighton, MA 02135
Since the summer of 2009, Sail To Prevail has embarked on yet another aspect of our ongoing mission of creating opportunities for disabled people to overcome adversity. After two years of observation and evaluation, our ongoing research and pilot programs, especially with the Easterner program, has confirmed and further underscored the importance of the role that families can have on the advancement and successes of the disabled participant.
Disabled Child Benefit
For sure, we do not feel that our programs or methodologies are “breakthrough science,” but rather, confirming without question that families who participate in therapies (in this case, sailing) alongside their disabled family member, can expect a better result than if the disabled individual participates alone. Through our own observation as well as testimonials, the overwhelming feedback has been that disabled participants who sail with family members often obtain better results.
Able-Bodied Parent/Sibling Benefit
Further, we have also recognized that sailing together as a family has an equal benefit on the able-bodied parent or siblings. Parents were amazed and gratified that their disabled loved one could perform a task(s) previously thought not possible. Consequently, the parent or sibling gains a new-found outlook and, possibly, greater respect for their disabled family member.
Disabled Parent Benefit
Conversely, a disabled parent who participates in sailing with their able-bodied children assists in developing the normal parent-child relationship. We whole-heartedly recommend that disabled parents incorporate their able-bodied children in their sailing activity, thus encouraging the natural human tendency for a child to admire and respect his/her (disabled) parent for who they are, as opposed to their disability. As a disabled parent myself, I have experienced this benefit first-hand.
In brief, we have found that our “family philosophy” is simple and effective – when families participate together in the sport of sailing, both the able-bodied family member(s) and their disabled loved one(s) experience positive results. The benefit goes both ways!
A Life-Changing Program
My name is Sean “Patrick” Feighan. Until last December I Iived with my Mother, Cynthia Feighan. I have multiple disabilities ranging from Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Seizure Disorder and Autism. I am currently 27 years old and last December, I moved into a Group Home run by Looking Upwards, Inc. in Middletown, RI. Sensory integration has always been a central part of my daily routine to be successful at living my life to its fullest. Deep massage, stimulating toys, music, videos, etc. help to keep me balanced and therefore receptive to sharing opportunities with others.
While I was still in high school, I had the opportunity to begin sailing with Sail To Prevail, through their summer camp. My first time out was indescribable. I experienced a connection with the world around me in a whole new way. My body, often uncooperative with my expectations, was at one with the movement of the boat. I felt the power of the wind moving the boat and myself through the water with an ease that unified my senses.
Each time I sail, I experience the same relaxing sensations except when there is no wind and I get anxious to feel the sensations of sailing. I look forward to sailing each summer and the feelings of accomplishment I get after having gone out on the boat. I know that I am doing something not otherwise experience by many people in my shoes. This feeling of accomplishment and sensory balance prevails into all areas of my life. Not being able to sail is like not having fruit to eat. My life is better balanced when I can sail.
My mother is grateful beyond understanding to be able to help to provide this opportunity to me. She cannot help me to play baseball, or soccer, or football. She cannot access much of what currently exists for people without disabilities and even with disabilities for me. This is fulfillment of her wishes for me to have a life as full and as enriching as possible. Sailing makes us both very happy.
Patrick and Cynthia Feighan