It is that time of year when everyone is making summer plans. One of my favorite places to go in the summer is the beach. I love the ocean.
When I go to the beach with my son, Jack who uses a wheelchair, it can be very challenging. First, let me say, my son loves the ocean. He loves any body of water, really. He is free in the water and it must feel amazing to him. Unfortunately, for us, it is a situation that can be challenging in many ways. First of all, getting his wheelchair through the sand is quite the workout. He is only 9, but very difficult to carry for any distance. Therefore, he is usually in the wheelchair as we pull him backwards out to the water. He thinks this is a fun game, of course, which always makes me smile and the load a little lighter!
Once we get him to the water, the fun begins. There is no sitting on the beach chair relaxing while the kids play, that is for sure. Whatever Jack wants to do, I do with him…swimming, jumping in the waves (great for the upper arm strength!), building sand castles, etc. Keeping the sand out of his eyes and his wheelchair are definitely challenges. It is a great time, but in general, the beach is not very conducive to those with mobility issues. That is, until recently!
Last month, a handicap accessible oceanfront park opened in Virginia Beach, VA. It is located right on the water and is designed to ensure that everybody gets a day at the beach! Paths lead a short distance into the sand so visitors can enjoy the beach, without having to drag wheelchairs through the sand. Virginia Beach native Josh Thompson (JT) suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease, and his family decided to do something about the lack of beach access for people like him.
Kiwanis Aktion Clubs have many adults with disabilities that might find it difficult to take a trip to the ocean. They understand what it is like to have challenges and what it means to overcome them and to focus on helping others. The service projects that the Aktion Club members perform are focused on improving communities, similar to what the Thompson family did in Virginia Beach. When people take the time to do service that will benefit others, it feels good for everyone involved.
Needless to say, I am very excited about this new park. The next time I take my son to the beach, I think it will be Grommet Park at Virginia Beach!