A few of the organizations that sailed with us:

• Sharp Rehabilitation Center
• Sharp Rehabilitation Therapist Training
• Braille Institute
• Bay Park Center for Visually Impaired Youth
• Deaf Community Services
• School of Creative & Performing Media Arts for Physically Disabled
• Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, Higher Ground Program for Disabled Veterans
• City of San Diego Therapeutic Recreation
• National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic
• San Diego Community Coaching Center
• National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic
• Community Sailing Day for the Blind
• San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation


“The uncertainty that came with vision loss left me fearful about the future, and feeling that a normal life would be impossible. Sailing has restored my self-confidence, given me a sense of freedom and adventure I never knew I had and taught me that anything can be possible no matter what your ability is.

“Learning to sail and be in control of a boat, making it dance across the sparkling bay and hearing the splash against the hull has turned me into a graceful ballerina.   This is my show now and vision loss is just a bit player waiting in the wings.”

“This beginning, this first time when the sailing truly filled in my life it [was] so beautiful – as heaven in earth!  I want to go sailing in the sea again.  I felt the wind, smelled the sea and saw everything!  I appreciated all the volunteers. … I can’t control the wind like [a] storm or whale or something!!!  I learned how to control the wind by sailing.  I loved it!  Thank you so much for [the] great time in the sea!
R.M. Participant

“I started sailing with Challenged America in November 2011. It was my first time back on the water since my injury on January 27, 2011. When I saw the Martin 16’s and how they are set up, I was excited to know that I would be an active participant rather than a passenger ‘along for the ride’.

“The phrase ‘leave your disabilities at the dock’ could not be more true! When I’m on the water, at the helm of a sailboat, and enjoying all the sights and sounds of San
Diego Bay, I forget about the wheelchair sitting on the dock. I’m always looking forward to my next sail.

“To the generous volunteers and donors who make this all happen, I can’t thank you enough!”
Eric Berkey, participant

I came to sail for the first time ever today!  What an incredible experience!  The feeling of controlling that sailboat was amazing!  I feel like it was some type of peaceful work; the entire experience was peaceful and enjoyable, but I also learned that sailing takes a lot of work and concentration.  I like that!  I had never really thought about which way the wind is blowing:  whether it was on my nose, on my right ear, or over my shoulder.  Learning to analyze this, I was able to maneuver the sailboat without continuous “hints” from my “teacher,” John.

John was one of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever met!  He started by explaining and describing every part of the Martin 16, and then as we moved away from the dock, the descriptions became more vivid.  Although I am totally blind, I felt like I was seeing the seals sun bathing on top of the buoys, the birds surrounding a small fishing boat, waiting for something to eat, or the various types of “traffic” that passed us throughout our short voyage.  I learned how to tack, how to move the boat so that it hit the small waves at a 45-degree angle rather than sideways, and how to pull the sail in when it begins to flap in the wind.  John never stopped teaching during those two hours of sailing, and I could have learned from him all day!

From the moment I arrived, I felt very welcome, and enjoyed meeting so many people, who definitely have a passion for sailing.  Thank you for allowing me to participate in this sailing experience and for providing such a gifted volunteer to assist me.  Thank you for keeping this program going, and now that I know what life-changing experiences occur there, I will definitely recommend that my friends and clients come and join the fun and learn how to sail.  I will also spread your mission and goals around in order to find people who will donate to this wonderful organization, so it can continue to thrive.  I am eager to return and sail again–hopefully with John!  Again, thanks just aren’t enough!
Karen S., Challenged America Participant

“To our new friends at Challenged America,

“Thank you so much for the beautiful day on the bay! Mikey enjoyed sailing with Stan (the Man). He hasn’t stopped talking about it. As soon as we got home he Skyped Grandpa in Arizona (a Commander in the Coast Guard) and told him all about it.

“It’s one thing to be out on the water sailing, but an entirely different thing to be able to take some control over your destination. It’s a real boost of confidence.

“His smile said it all!”
Parent of a disabled participant

“What a sense of freedom and independence! … It’s a great sport for me, since I cannot speak (and it’s not necessary)! The only time I was slightly nervous was when we returned, under full sail, within feet of the famous race boat Stars & Stripes and pulled up to the pier
with a perfect ‘hockey stop!’ Good times”
Ellen, Disabled Veteran

“It was so great to sail with these veterans. They all had such great attitudes towards life and the opportunities it holds! Grave as some of their disabilities were (totally blind, missing legs, etc.), they all seemed to view their conditions as minor inconveniences that simply had to be dealt with as the enjoyed this big, beautiful world we live in. Being able to control the sailboat totally on their own, with me just along to give bits of advice where needed, was something that they all so enjoyed … their enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself smiling just as broadly as they were as we rounded each buoy on our way to the finish line. I know the sports clinic is organized for their benefit, not mine, but I’m selfishly hoping that its held in San Diego again next year so that I can participate! Many thanks to Kelli, Carolyn, Urban, and all the other people at Challenged America and the Department of Veterans Affairs who worked so hard to create this opportunity for our distinguished service men and women. Looking forward to next year.”
-John B., Challenged America Volunteer

“It was wonderful meeting people from all over the United States who want to experience life regardless of their physical trappings. The energy was amazing and encouraged my own desire to do the same in spite of being visually impaired. And witnessing the other volunteers giving of themselves was AWESOME!”
-Tammy A., Challenged America Volunteer

“Sailing the boat was the biggest surprise of my week! I have ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). I seriously thought I would just go for a ride and maybe hold a line in my weak hands, while someone else controlled the boat. Running the joystick put me on a level field with my team and I forgot about my physical problems. I was simply sailing and having the time of my life! Thank you for the gift of your time, spirit and resources. I will be dreaming of that day from here in NH. See you soon, my friends.”
-Ellen, Veteran Participant

“I remember one 29 year old army veteran who had done two tours in Iraq and was 100% disabled with post traumatic stress. His typical day consisted of watching TV, playing video games and sleeping. He likes the VA sports clinics because this gets him out. He particularly liked the sailing because it was peaceful and beautiful in the harbor. Once the race started, he liked the new mobility and the fact that he had control.”
-Stan B., Challenged America Volunteer

“It was, again, an extraordinary experience and one that I look forward to each year. Hopefully we can come down next year.”
-Jim T., Challenged America Volunteer

“As an individual with a disability (quadriplegic) and a professional in the rehabilitation field it is with enthusiasm that I express wholehearted support for the Challenged America Sailing Program.

Challenged America offers a unique opportunity for individuals with disabilities to explore their skills and discover their abilities while sailing in the pristine environment of San Diego Bay. Personally, I found sailing in an adapted sailboat is the great equalizer of knowing no limits or disability because everyone on the Bay faces the same challenges. My time with Challenged America has also sparked my competitive interest in risk taking and has built self-esteem. Additionally, individuals of all ages enjoy the same opportunity of sailing with Challenged America.

Challenged America is an intricate part of the disabled community bringing individuals with diverse disabilities together in a friendly and competitive environment. Challenged America also offers plenty of opportunities for participants to socialize and network. The staff and volunteers are conscientious in providing a safe and supportive environment for individuals to grow and discover their potential.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity that Challenged America makes possible.”
-Rusty Krumm  M.S., Challenged America Participant

Being a companion sailor for a deaf teenager was an incredible day. Their is no greater feeling than when an adolescent is so excited, after having spent his first day in a sailboat on the bay.
Hearing the youngster shout with joy and then throw his arms around me, as the only way to express the awesome feeling he experienced by being ‘set free’ on the water. Awesome day!

-Marshall Lubin, Challenged America volunteer

Challenged America is very important to me not just because sailing is my passion, but because what it has taught me about myself. Prior to being involved in Challenged America I thought sailing was part of my past. Something I could no longer do as a result of Muscular Dystrophy. This program has enabled me to sail again and experience feelings I hadn’t felt for a very long time- feelings like hope, empowerment, and freedom. I have learned that you can be blind and still sail as Urban the founder of the program does, or have a prosthetic leg as Kevin my sailing companion does. I learned that I could leave my disabilities at the dock, sail in a seven boat regatta and win!
-Colin Smith, Challenged America Participant

We wanted to take a moment to thank you for marshaling those great folks just for us. We can tell how dedicated you all are! A special thanks to Stan and Mike for giving of their time and service. we had so much fun and learned a lot. we hope to see you all again and sail in the future, Thanks again for all you do for the disabled community
-Pami and Guy Keenan, Challenged America Participants

The independence to just do it on your own is an incredible feeling, being blind, you don’t get to drive, so this was just awesome!
-Claudia Perry, Disabled Veteran, NVSSC 2011

I felt the wind pushing and moving,I had a great instructor who really helped me. Being a fisherman, I love being on the water.
-Nathan Allan, US Army Veteran,vision-impaired.

Thank You so much! Doug, you’re the best teacher, I learned a lot from you and got to feel like a winner. Thank you for all the work you do to make it possible for us with disabilities to go sailing.
-Tami Ridley, participant

One thought on “Testimonials

  1. sailing was such a welcomed and enjoyable gift to be able to forget about my multiple sclerosis for an afternoon on the water.
    thank you randy,the volunteer companion who introduced me to your program. it was an awesome experience!

    thank you,
    roberta long

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