Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kids at the beach

My friend & fellow blogger Rosie inspired this with her latest post about wheelchair access on the Outer Banks. It got me to thinking - again - about our kids at St. Mary's (Google alerts at the Home!).

So many things we take for granted, they will never experience, and this post is about one of those things in particular. We are very lucky to be living here in coastal Virginia where we can go see the ocean whenever we want, but our kids, even though they live here too, are dependent on their wheelchairs to get them around.

Let me emphasize this: wheelchairs + sand + salt water = broken wheelchair = disaster.

And we at St. Mary's feel that our kids should be able to experience some of the particular joys of life like any other kid, namely, the sound of the surf, the smell of the sea, and the feel of the sand & waves. We're just funny that way.

The resort strip in Virginia Beach has the "boardwalk", which I have posted about before, and wheelchairs have a smooth ride on its smooth cement, so the sound of the surf & the smell of the sea are certainly within our kids' reach. But, if you go north to Fort Story or south to Sandbridge or the Outer Banks (please note that the Wiki mentions that the Outer Banks start in southeastern VA), there is no boardwalk to be found. That leaves nothing between the ocean and the road but sea oats and houses. What's a wheelchair to do?

We take some of them to the beach in the summers now, but all we can do is push them along the boardwalk. Some of them participate in the shorter runs with out local chapter of Team Hoyt. But how do they really experience the ocean?

I'll tell you. We in the Physical Therapy Department started looking into this a while ago, and yes, my boy was one of the reasons. This is where I introduced him, for those who don't remember (and that particular post seems to be the source of a lot of overseas hits on my blog. Go figure).

Anyway, we found these . . .

And this one . . .

There are other manufacturers, but you get the idea. Trouble is, these are a pretty penny to buy, in fact, more like one or two hundred thousand pennies. So we have to figure out a way to not only pay for it, but make it accessible to as many kids as possible. But these can be rolled right down into the water so that our kids can feel, if only for a few minutes, like any other kid before they have to go back to the harsh reality of their lives.

It would need to allow for modifications to make more secure for our guys, since they generally have very poor control of their bodies, but we are seeing a lot of potential here.

Excuse me now, I must go make some cookies for our bake sale.


Russ said...

I've seen a couple of these on these on the beach, same premise as the baby strollers. I wonder if there would be a rental market for these at some of the bigger rental operations. Since you have more experience, is size and issue (how many would you need?), and I wonder if restraints could be added easily?

Kathy said...

I would have no idea about a rental market. Any that we got could be modified by our wheelchair tech. He is a genius at piecing chairs together out of spare parts. We haven't determined size yet, and yes, restraints could be easily added.

You getting ready to bake some cookies?

Marilyn said...

Are there grants available for this sort of thing? It would be wonderful if your home could get a hold of some of these beach chairs.

Kathy said...

Grants are tricky. Unless you have someone working on them full-time, they are not always easy to find. We generally do better with private organizations that want to take on a cause.

We'd be happy with one of them at this point.