"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What is your Legacy?

Too often these days, less fortunate people, like for instance people with disabilities are not treated equally to others without disabilities in our society. They can be looked down upon and shunned sometimes for no good reason. A good example of that would be that there are a lot of summer camps for children are only for people who are fully mobile or fully in a proper state of mental health and children with disabilities have to go to other special camps for people with special needs. Camp coordinators may have their own good reasons for making sure the kids are fully fit before accepting them into their camp, but I feel this separation isn’t very good for growing children whether they are in a wheel chair or not. As they are separated, children without disabilities do not learn how to deal and interact with those who are not, which I feel is an extremely important life skill to have.

I started sailing at the age of nine at a sailing camp in Burlington, Ontario. There I met a girl who was in the same camp as me. As years went by we always went at the same time and joined the racing program together, where we got very close. She would always tell me about her brother and how she wished he were able to sail, because he loved to watch the sailboats out on the water, but since he was paralyzed from the waist down he was not able to learn how to sail at a reasonable price and without special private lessons. She never thought it was fair that people with disabilities had to be split up from other people and that there should be a way that everybody could interact and go to the same camps whether they are in a wheelchair or can run ten miles.

As the years went by, she stopped racing and I kept on going and we eventually fell out of touch. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to catch up with her but she regretted to inform me that her brother had passed away. It was also mentioned that he was never able to learn how to sail, which I found very sad. Just because he wasn’t able to walk, why should he be subject to paying more for special lessons, apart from all others? We decided to create a business plan together in memory of her brother to start a summer sailing and other sports day camp in the Greater Toronto Area, which would be for everyone, those with disabilities and those without.

This girl has been a very good friend of mine, and I would support any of her ideas, even though if I thought they were out of this world, but I truly believe that the two of us together with the help of some foundations could create some place where all kids could go. With both of our creative but realistic ideas and our skills in the sport of sailing, together we could run and instruct children of all ages to learn how to sail. I have always felt a great need to give back to the new sailing community what my instructors had taught me when learning how to sail, but I feel it could be even better used and appreciated passing on this knowledge to underprivileged children who may not have gotten the chance to before.

Our mission is to provide a camp where any child or teen could go to learn how to sail at the same price that they would pay at any other sailing camp, with the same quality instruction, but it does not matter what physical shape the kids are in. Although sailing can be a very expensive sport, and it becomes even more expensive when having to purchase boats for the disabled, we feel that we have a great enough cause that many of the local and provincial foundation groups (like the Ontario Trillium Foundation) will look at us through a good light. These foundations are very willing to donate money to camps to help disabled or special needs children, so that they can participate in sports and activities too. Since our camp is trying to incorporate both the physically able and disabled so that they are all able to participate and interact together rather than in separate groups.

Similar camps have been created in the recent future, to allow children with disabilities to participate in more and more sports, but there has been no such camp as of yet to have physically fit and physically challenged children working together and playing sports together.

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