LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Campers and their families set up chairs along Lake Harner for the eighth annual Water Adventure Camp for Kids, a program that gives children and adults with disabilities the chance to water ski.
Special skis allow users to sit while being towed by one of three boats. Behind them, jet skis kept pace, with divers on the back in case a camper became disconnected or fell off.
The camp’s founder, Amie Gish, 39, said the ride clocks in at about 13 miles per hour.
Twenty-six campers took to the water Tuesday; 78 were set to ski throughout the week. The camp ran from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., which Gish said gives each participant at least two chances to ski. Those who stick it out until the end of the day might get three to four turns.
Participants must be able to communicate using words or hand signals, roll over from a face-down position in the water and hold the ski rope independently.
The camp was started by Gish, her husband, Tim Gish, 49, and a friend, Nikki Shaffer, 34. Amie Gish, a physical therapist, and Shaffer worked in pediatrics. The first camp had around 20 participants.
“We wanted our patients to have some sort of outdoor activity to do during the summer,” Gish told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/1w12NWZ ).
After two laps around the lake, Jake Hemphill, 18, emerged from the cool water with a smile on his face. He said he enjoyed the experience and would do it again.
Jake’s father, Rich Hemphill, 44, said more activities are available for those with special needs than a decade ago. He said Jake’s spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, hasn’t stopped him from enjoying fishing and hunting.
“Jake likes to do anything outdoors,” Hemphill said. “He’s about as country boy as the boy could get.”
When Jake was about 8 months old, doctors told the family to buy him a wheelchair. It took time, but Jake learned to walk Most of his 17 surgeries involved his legs.
“I try and give him an opportunity to do what other kids do all the time and take for granted,” Hemphill said. “It gives him a chance to say ‘yea’ instead of hearing ‘no.‘”
Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com