PPSC honored for its services for disabled sailors

U.S. Sailing hosted its National Sailing Programs Symposium (NSPS) in League City, Texas recently and East Boston’s very own Piers Park Sailing Center was awarded the 2009 Outstanding Program for Disabled Sailors.

In 2005, PPSC was granted funding from the Lead to Opportunities for Youth with Disabilities initiative to design and develop youth sailing programs that specifically include young people with disabilities. The sailing center used this generous support to expand the number of children with disabilities served; expand the depth of contact between trained instructors and children with disabilities; include children with disabilities in the skill and leadership development benefits offered in sailing center programs; establish collaborations with disability organizations; and provide professional development for all staff.

The program is run by Olympic Gold Medal sailor Maureen McKinnon-Tucker. She and her U.S. Paralympic Sailing teammate, the late Nick Scandone, took gold in the SKUD-18 Sailing event at Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre during day seven of the Paralympic Games.

It was the first gold medal win for the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team and McKinnon-Tucker will go down in the history books as the first ever woman to not only make the team but the first woman to win gold in the Paralympic Sailing Regatta.

When McKinnon-Tucker, an avid sailor, suffered a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down many of the sailing programs she attended did not have the equipment or capability to handle her disability.

“I was frustrated until I met someone who had the same disability and encouraged me to join a program that catered to people with disabilities,” said McKinnon-Tucker.

McKinnon-Tucker brought her skills and expertise to Piers Park Sailing Center’s adaptive sailing program for people with disabilities. The sailing center is the only fully wheelchair-accessible sailing facility in Boston and the primary sailboat used at the center is the Sonar Class, which was chosen as a Paralympic Class boat because of its adaptability for sailors with disabilities.

“Suffering a disability can be very dis-empowering and people with disabilities crave the opportunity to become empowered again,” said McKinnon-Tucker. “Sailing creates a sense of empowerment and accomplishment because while a disability has boundaries the ocean has no boundaries.”

Each year, at the beginning of the season the sailing center hosts a ‘Give it a Try’ day for area residents with disabilities looking to give sailing a shot.

“Our goal is to have 40 people with disabilities here at the sailing center,” said Tucker. “We have the equipment and means to serve people with site and hearing impairments, amputees, people who are paralyzed…we’ve talked to a number of health care professionals and they are very excited to see a facility and program like ours in Boston.”

PPSc was also chosen for the Tamchui Award form the Rashi School in Newton as their philanthropy project last week and is gearing up for another season of providing enriching opportunities for the at-risk and disabled youth in the community.

“Our Youth Development program is growing  in popularity annually and PPSC is dedicated to ensuring that we serve as many young people in need as possible,” said Executive Director Mat Rosa. “As a result of the great demand for services from the community, we are revising our application process for the 2010 season.”

Registration Forms for the Youth Development program will be available on March 15 at www.piersparksailing.org. Completed applications must be postmarked by March 22 for East Boston residents and March 29 for all other residents. Registration Closes April 9 and any applications postmarked after this date will be placed on the wait list.

You can mail your application form to the Piers Park Sailing Center, 95 Marginal Street, East  Boston, MA 02128

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