Joselyn Mendoza was all smiles as she was strapped into a “cage” fitted to a set of waterskis.
The 7-year-old was fitted and strapped into a seat and harness attached to a wide set of skis on the sandy beach at the Pointes West Army Resort.
It was the first time she had ever gone waterskiing, and she was nervous but excited.
A few minutes later, Joselyn was skimming along the surface of Lake Thurmond behind a yellow motorboat.
“I can’t swim. That’s why I have this,” she said, pointing to her life vest.
Her soon-to-be adoptive mother, Petra Ramos, learned about the adaptive waterski clinic from a flyer in Joselyn’s doctor’s office.
The event, presented by Champions Made from Adversity and Georgia Regents University, allows people with disabilities to experience kayaking, waterskiing, tubing, boating and swimming.
Jane Willson, director of rehabilitation services at GRU, estimated about 250 patients, family members and volunteers turned out for the event.
GRU had previously presented a skiing event for children with disabilities, but joining with Champions Made From Adversity made the event available to adults, Willson said.
Champions Made from Adversity provides adaptive sports such as wheelchair basketball, cycling and swimming for people with physical disabilities.
“This one activity we do every year serves adults and children with cognitive and physical disabilities,” said Kelly Garcia, of CMFA. “It covers everything.”
Participants who were interested in kayaking could paddle themselves, or have a volunteer paddle for them. Two jet skis ridden by lifeguards followed each boat that pulled a skier to ensure safety.
A fire truck, Gold Cross, a dive team and a physician also were on hand to ensure safety.
Some participants preferred to simply lie on the beach and watch.
“They can just do what they want to do. If they only want to ski, they can keep taking their turn to ski. Most people come out and just do it all. At least try it,” Garcia said.
Sconyers Barbecue donated lunch, making the event entirely free for everyone.
Ramos said Mendoza, who will be formally adopted on July 1, had never been to the beach. “She loves the water, so I wanted her to experience it,” she said.
For one day, participants did not have to worry about doctors offices or medicine.
“It’s not about what might be wrong. It’s about what’s right,” Garcia said. “It just gives them fun. There are no worries.”