A local organization is partnering with the Disability Network, Genesee County Parks, and the Flint River Watershed Coalition to help people with disabilities get on the water. It’s called iKayak.
“Today we are expecting about 14 people who have disabilities and we’re going to get them on the water, many of them for the very first time,” Carrie Gerdeman, the associate director for the Disability Network said.
Gerdeman started the program after having the idea, but not knowing how to kayak.
“We put them on the land, we slide them into the water, and then we just wait until they’re comfortable,” Gerdeman said.
That’s when Jamie Welch takes over. She’s an adaptive paddle instructor, certified to help the participants get the hang of kayaking.
“You get to take them from, ‘I don’t think I can do it,’ to, ‘I’m doing it.,” Welch said.
That feeling, Welch said, never loses its spark.
“You see that expression and you see that click. When they just start loving it. And it’s fantastic,” Welch said.
This is the fourth year that iKayak has been helping people get on the water, no matter their experience level.
“I want people to know that there’s a way to adapt every recreational activity regardless of your ability,” Gerdeman said.
Some of the kayakers at the event are from Insight Healing Center, a rehabilitation center in Flint that specializes in traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.
“It’s amazing. It was life changing for me. To share that love of the water with them, is just wonderful,” Welch said.