BUSH, La. — A nonprofit organization on the Northshore named Ski-Dawgs has been helping people with disabilities carve it up on the water, something many of them never thought they’d be able to do.
Members of the organization spent most of Saturday outside of Bush, Louisiana, and it was a memorable day, they said.
The experience for most riders was like anyone else’s first day spent on a lake trying water skiing for the first time — the adrenaline rush felt by the skier as the boat pulls them to the top of the surface, the water misting in their face, and the wind blowing through their hair.
But for those that deal with life-altering disabilities those experiences might never happen, and Elsie Hinrichs, a participant’s mother, didn’t think it ever would.
“When I saw them, I knew immediately I needed to reach out to them," Hinrichs said.
Ski-Dawgs specializes in adaptive water skiing for most people with disabilities, including paraplegics and amputees or those who have spina bifida — a condition where the spinal column doesn't completely form in children before birth — or traumatic brain injuries.
Children with muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome can also participate.
Their ski like surfboard has a seat perfectly attached sandwiched between two more skis for safety, and helpers on personal water vehicles constantly follow riders, watching them just in case they fall off.
Co-founder of Ski-Dawgs, David Thomas is paralyzed, and that inspired the passion he has for his organization.
Since the organization’s establishment in 2018, Ski-Dawg has had three events a year where they help some of the differently-abled get that day on the lake, and it’s a day many people look forward to for many reasons.
Trenton Bradley was paralyzed after a 2011 all-terrain vehicle accident in Oklahoma.
"It's a hope that I don't have to sit around the house and watch tv all of the time,” Bradley said. “You know, it gives you something to look forward to."
Ski-Dawgs became an outlet for Bradley after his first time in 2019.
"I come in September, and it was just the most amazing experience I’ve had since my accident,” Bradley said.
For others like Abbie Ross, who was born with spina bifida, this was her way of breaking down mental barriers and bonding with her father who shares a love for the lake, she said.
"I didn't wear my bathing suit for a really long time because I was afraid to show my braces and to show what I look like,” Ross said. “For him and I, this experience is more than just me being out on the water skiing; it's a confidence builder for me."
For children who get a chance to take part in their own day on the lake, this kind of event is positive. It can be just as positive for their parents, Thomas said.
"It's not just the look on the kids' faces, it's the look on the parents’ faces,” Thomas said. “We have the parents come in, and they get so emotional seeing their child do something that they never thought they'd see again. You see them when they leave (to go on the lake), and they might be a little apprehensive. They might have a little fear on their face, but when they come back, they have a smile on their face that you just can't get rid of."
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