Area residents overcome challenge to succeed
SAND HARBOR – Lake Tahoe’s waters were therapeutic for Northern California and Nevada residents who participated in Disabled Sports U.S.A.’s water sport outing.
For the disabled participants, an emphasis under Thursday’s morning sun was not therapy, but just plain having fun. The program is designed to show both the mentally or physically challenged person that he or she can participate in water skiing and personal watercraft riding.
“For me, my passion is water sports, the fresh air, water spraying in your face,” said Mark Wellman, longtime DSUSA participant and staff member. “(DSUSA) teaches individuality, and this is therapeutic. You are out there using muscles you normally wouldn’t use.”
DSUSA organizes four water sport outings each year at different locations across the country. The organization has its roots in the Tahoe area, and began with winter sports. Today’s event had two inboard boats with water skiing equipment – sit-down water skis – and six personal watercraft. There were about 30 people who participated in Thursday’s event.
Atop the personal watercraft, DSUSA staff accompanied the skiers who maneuvered the water ski which had two out-rigger skis for balance. If the skier splashed down, the staff were quickly at hand to help them back up.
“DSUSA started from a group of Vietnam vets back in the late ’60s,” said employee Cindy Smith. “They started adaptive snow skiing, and water skiing started in the late ’70s.
DSUSA works in conjunction with other programs designed for the mentally or physically disabled, such as Shriner’s hospitals and public school special education programs.
“It ties the theme of promoting individuality. It focuses on ability rather than inability,” said Joe Bohl, executive director of Reno’s Center for Independent Living.
“Recreation and leisure is the cornerstone to rehabilitation,” adds Wellman.
DSUSA’s goal does not stop at just getting people to participate. At each of their four scheduled events around the country each summer, DSUSA employees aim to spread their knowledge to others.
“We teach local people in the community how to teach adaptive water skiing,” said Wellman.
As DSUSA spreads across the nation, participants and employees alike rave about its benefits.
“It changes your life,” said Wellman. “It gives the added confidence they didn’t think they could have.”
Reno resident Mark Calerno, who is mentally disabled, participated in program and said that he was having a blast in Thursday’s activities.
“I would have to have a twin brother to be doing any better,” Calerno said.
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