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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Water skiers enjoy adaptive clinic at Pachaug Pond

    Griswold ― Jillian Harpin enjoyed water skiing Saturday morning in loops around Pachaug Pond.

    Thalia Almeida, of Waterbury, center, waterskis with the assistance of lead instructor Steve Joly, of Salem, left, and Tim Bedard, of Glastonbury, right on Pachaug Pond in Griswold, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The waterskiing clinic, hosted by the Gaylord Sports Association, aims to teach and help people with disabilities master the sport. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Laura Dennison, center, of Boston, Mass. gets a hand from Katie Joly, of Salem, right, and Katie Butler, of Hamden, left, while boarding a sit-ski in Griswold, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The Gaylord Sports Association hosted the adaptive waterskiing clinic for people with disabilities at Pachaug Pond outside the Joly family cottage. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Austin Wheaton, of Milford, rides a sit-ski across Pachaug Pond in Griswold on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022 during the Gaylord Sports Association’s adaptive waterskiing clinic for people with disabilities. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Lesley Schwarzschild, of Westport, holds on tight as she water-skis on Pachaug Pond during the Gaylord Sports Association’s adaptive waterskiing clinic for people with disabilities on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022 in Griswold. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    Cindi Gazda, of Massachusetts, bolts a cage into her sit-ski at Pachaug Pond in Griswold, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022 during the Gaylord Sports Association’s adaptive waterskiing clinic for people with disabilities. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)
    People with disabilities participate in an adaptive waterskiing clinic, hosted by the Gaylord Sports Association, at Pachaug Pond in Griswold, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. (Daniel Passapera/Special to The Day)

    Harpin, a Wethersfield resident who had a spinal cord injury about six years ago, used an adaptive water ski, which was about the size of a wake board and had a seat.

    She said that since her injury, she’s become way more adventurous and experienced so many different types of sports that she never tried before. She said participating in adaptive sports allows her to keep challenging herself and meet other people who share a similar journey.

    The adaptive water-skiing clinic held by Gaylord Sports Association Saturday at Pachaug Pond was no exception.

    “It’s a great way to get people from so many different walks of life all together and experiencing the glory of being on the water,“ Harpin said.

    About 8 people on Saturday participated in the clinic as they water skiied, pulled by a boat and followed by a jet ski as a safety precaution, in the pond, and socialized together and listened to music on the grass.

    Gaylord Sports Association Program Manager Katie Joly said the free clinic was for people who had a physical disability or visual impairment. The goal was to get people out on the water to introduce the sport to them and give them a new experience or to help people get back to a sport they haven’t been able to do since an injury.

    Gaylord Sports Association offers a host of adaptive sports programs throughout the year, but the water-skiing clinic is particularly special for Joly because it takes place at the waterfront cottage of her husband’s family, she said. With Joly’s role with Gaylord Sports Association and background as a therapeutic recreation specialist and with the family wanting to share their love of water skiing, the family decided to first host the event at the cottage more than a decade ago.

    The water-skiing clinic, held twice a summer, returned this summer, after a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Katie Joly’s husband, Steve Joly, said the clinic is something the whole family has embraced and wanted to grow. People helping out included Joly family members, Gaylord Sports Association staff and volunteers from other water ski clubs.

    Katie Joly said the adaptive water-skiing clinic modifies skiing for people who have any kind disability that wouldn’t necessarily allow them to do a traditional stand-up ski lesson. For example, one modification is a sit-ski, a wider ski with a seat, and either ski on their own or with the side skiers.

    Austin Wheaton of Milford, who was born with spina bifida, started water skiing in 2014 and also has done downhill skiing, archery and cycle rides through Gaylord Sports Association.

    “Water skiing is like nothing else I’ve ever done,” Wheaton said. “It is such as cool experience. It’s incredibly exciting.”

    He remembers the first time he went water skiing in 2014 and how fun and freeing it felt.

    “Its exciting to see what’s out there and to push the limits of what you thought was possible,” he said.

    Cindi Gazda of Massachusetts had a traumatic brain injury 12 years ago. Gazda said she didn’t realize until her physical therapist told her that she could still get out and enjoy kayaking, biking, and water skiing, just with adaptions now. She said programs like Gaylord Sports Association allow her to do just that.

    “To be able to get out and ski, you get to forget you have a disability,” said Gazda. “You get to be able to feel free and feel like I can do adaptive sports, just in a different way than before.”

    June Deptulski of Preston enjoyed water skiing as a teenager but stopped once she started working full-time. Deptulski, who is now in her 50’s, tried an adaptive version of water skiing and rediscovered the sport of her youth a couple of years after having a stroke in 2011.

    She said the adaptive sport opens up a whole other world of opportunities for recreation that she otherwise wouldn’t have.

    “It’s exhilarating,” she said.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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