A joke around sailing clubs is often “The older you get the farther back in the boat you are” is, sadly, often true.
Bob Hettiger and I were recently reminiscing about the past 33 years of Challenged America providing free sailing opportunities to kids and adults with disabilities. We joked about “those good old days” when we effortlessly hopped or transferred on board any boat or swung ourselves below deck like a gymnast, physically demonstrated to new sailors, including the able-bodied, how to grind on the winches, where and when to sit on the rail in the proper “rail meat position,” about the days of working the foredeck in a pounding sea or being hoisted up the mast or forestay to retrieve a halyard. The years have sure flown by, and we’re more than qualified to be in the back of the boat and, with one foot on the dock, looking for our replacements.
I know many would have loved to listen in as we talked about all those sailors and volunteers who are no longer with us or not sailing or helping any more. We analyzed the learning curve we went through of not only trying to accommodate various disabilities on a sailboat, but to how the program was continually modified and molded based on participants, volunteers, demands, and the always-present economic limitations. We are definitely in agreement that “listening to our gut feelings” at times, given no one really knew our strapped financial situation, was the best thing we could have ever done, as we continually received comments, suggestions and statements of “how the program needs to be operated” and “what we needed to do” by those who have since long disappeared.
The one point we both agreed upon is that new Challenged America goals are again in order, and we, as the founders, were the best ones to do it. The last goal we (together) set was in 1991: To one day sail the Transpacific Yacht Race (“Transpac”) from Los Angeles to Honolulu. And did we then get plenty of negative comments, and criticism, as well as chuckles for making such a seemingly bold and unrealistic, overly ambitious goal for the disabled. But that is what Challenged America has always been about. And, as you know, Team Challenged America accomplished that goal in 2003 by completing the Transpac, and doing it again in 2005 – due to the help of many volunteers and supporters, especially Brian & Suzanne Hull of Coronado, CA, and Steve Rock, owner of Fiddler’s Green Restaurant.
The original objective and vision years ago was to design Challenged America as a new life experience and platform for others to test, expand, and enhance their well-being, and to better help participants move forward in life in a healthier and more productive fashion. We needed to do this and keep within the IRS-approved charitable mission. Bob and I, basically, desired to create something that we felt missing in our own rehabilitation and lives.
As we begin 2011, the 34th year of Challenged America in San Diego, California, following are some the program’s more lofty new goals. These goals will be the basis for management’s philosophy, decisions and policies. Again, we’re plotting into new territories as we strive to advance rehabilitation and successful mainstream outcomes by participants, as well as volunteers.
CHALLENGED AMERICA GOALS
- Acquire a large vessel, for the purpose of providing vocational rehabilitation and educational programs in the maritime and related industries for kids and adults with disabilities. Such a vessel to accommodate crew, instructors and/or students for extended periods at sea. The vessel and its crew to be “goodwill ambassadors” of Challenged America, and schedule ports-of-call for educational, demonstration, promotional and publicity purposes.
- Design and build the “first of its kind,” high-tech, offshore race-cruising sailboat to accommodate sailors with disabilities. This innovatively designed vessel to have the latest in assistive technology, adaptations, safety gear and equipment, and aids to enhance the safety, comfort, and performance of (competitive) sailors with disabilities – including those having high-level impairments – in all sea conditions and sailing venues.
- Promote the implementation of research studies on adaptive sailing as a scientific and medical enhancing therapeutic and rehabilitation activity and wellness life style for individuals with disabilities.
- Establish Challenged America as a financially self-sustaining therapeutic adaptive sailing program by seeking the next generation of leadership to govern and direct the program, and who will be directly involved in achieving the financial solvency in reaching program goals and fulfilling the program vision in coming years.
Urban Miyares, President Challenged America