Water Adaptive Event Offers Wet And Wild Time For People With Disabilities For Sixth Year
by James Coulter
Daymon Jenkins from Tampa may only have one leg, but that doesn’t stop him from having a leg up in the water. Though he has zero experience in water sports, he has been attending the Water Adaptive Event in Winter Haven for an opportunity to have some watery fun.
This year, one of the water activities he engaged in was to hang on and trail alongside one of the boats as it cruised through Lake Silver. Jenkins himself is not the strongest swimmer, but he enjoys being able to partake in such activities that he otherwise would not be able to due to his disability.
This was his third year attended the Water Adaptive Event, an annual event hosted by the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team that allows individuals with physical and mental disabilities the opportunity to engage in safe water sports.
Daymon has worked with amputees and other people with disabilities before, so he appreciates the effort that the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team makes to allow him and others the ability to enjoy the water in spite of their disability.
“I love just meeting new people,” he said. “It is fun to come out here and meet new people…[I have] never really skied before. It is difficult, but it is fun.”
The Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team has been hosting this annual event since 2013, with this being their sixth year. The team hosts monthly ski shows for the community, and they wanted to do something to show their support for the local community that has supported them, explained Jean Voisard, Ski Team Leader.
“We just wanted to give back to the community,” she said. “We have a ski team filled with talented skiers. This is the way that we can thank the community for the support that we have given them.”
This year’s event drew in more than 50 individuals from across the state, from as far as Tampa and Orlando, from all ages young and old, and with many disabilities including individuals who were wheelchair-bound, amputees, or with mental and developmental disorders.
Each and every year the event grows larger thanks to the promotion provided by the Ski Team. They provide flyers and information to organizations across the state, and people flock each and every year across the state to participate, Voisard said.
“It is the uniqueness of the opportunity,” Voisard credited their success. “It is something different outside their daily routine….It is a great turnout. We could not be happier. We plan on having this every year.”
During the event, participants gather near the shore Lake Silver in Winter Haven, where they each have the opportunity to get out onto the water, trailing behind a motorboat with skis and other equipment. Most of the equipment provided is specially designed to adapt to the special needs and disabilities of the various attendees.
Helping with the event was Bob Kasper, Founder and President of “On The Edge”, a non-profit organization that provides adaptive water skiing training to young people across the country in 28 states and in Canada.
“We mentor them through the process and we use our equipment to create community activities such as this one to give back and give people with physical and mental challenges an opportunity to leave the shore out in the water and have a great day,” he said.
A civil engineer by education and trade, Kasper helped design many of the adaptive skiing equipment used at events such as this. For the past 11 years, his organization has provided individuals with disabilities the ability to have fun on the water.
More than simply teaching people how to ski, Kasper appreciates being able to talk with attendees and develop close relationships with them, allowing them to feel more comfortable with who they are and create networks of similar individuals like them.
“This is one of our largest events that they had, and it keeps growing each and every year,” he said. “I love the smiles. It is all about the people. It is about giving back…Some people have been coming here for years, they keep coming back every year. And it gives them a feeling they can do more activities.”