Fresh Air: BRA Grant Will Support Sailing Program

-By John Lynds

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Kids out for a sail in the harbor as members of the Piers Park Sailing Center. Piers Park Sailing Center will use part of a $8,500 grant from the Boston Redevelopment Authority to support various programming events aimed at attracting more kids with disabilities to the center.

East Boston’s Piers Park Sailing Center will take part in a $8,500 grant from the Boston Redevelopment Authority to support various programming events this summer as part of the Waterfront Activation Plan for the Charlestown Navy Yard (CNY).

The disbursement is made possible through mitigation funds received from the Carlyle Group as part of the community benefits associated with the Group’s purchase of Building 42 in the CNY.

A total of $3,500 will support a sailing day for special needs children.

For the past two summers, the Piers Park Sailing Center, Charlestown Waterfront Coalition, Spaulding Rehab Hospital and the Courageous Sailing Center located on Pier 4 in the Charlestown Navy Yard have run programs to involve special needs children and youths in their sailing programs.

Approximately 100 people participated in each of these events. ALready one event was held on June 19 and another is scheduled for September 10, 2011.

In 2005, the Piers Park Sailing Center 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.

Maureen McKinnon-Tucker, an avid sailor and victim of a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down, has worked hard over the years to promote the sailing center’s ability to accommodate disabled sailors or people with disabilities that have yet to sail.

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 Tucker. “Sailing creates a sense of empowerment and accomplishment because while a disability has boundaries the ocean has no boundaries.”

McKinnon-Tucker and and the late Nick Scandone, took gold in the SKUD-18 Sailing event at Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre during day seven of the Paralympic Games in 2008.

It was the first gold medal win for the  U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team and McKinnon-Tucker went 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.

McKinnon-Tucker and Scandone won the U.S. Trials to represent the U.S. in the 2008 Paralympic Games.

“I set a goal in 2002 that I would represent my country in the highest level of the sport – The Paralympic Games.” said Tucker of her accomplishment. “Our team finished 3rd in 2003, losing the U.S. Trials for Athens, Greece and I left heartbroken. I took time out for a second child and returned in 2006 to competition.”

Tucker had the honor of making the U.S. Disabled Sailing Team five times, but 2008 was the first time she won the U.S. Trials with new teammate and skipper, Scandone.

Tucker was the first woman to make the U.S. team and is now the first woman in Paralympic Sailing to represent the USA and win a gold.

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