St. Louis Area Water Skiers Heat Up on New Year's Day
As 2001 came to a close many people were celebrating the holidays with their families while sitting in front of a warm fireplace. New Year's Day in St. Louis was bright, sunny and cold with water temperatures a balmy 30 degrees. A perfect day to water ski! Several St. Louis area water skiers began the New Year with a SPLASH as the brave at heart took to the Mississippi River in front of the Gateway Arch. Many of the water skiers were from the Alton Water Ski Club, which has been water skiing on January 1st in front of the Arch for over 25 years.
''Year’s ago, we would do this for just nonsensical reasons,'' said Kevin Day, 42. Kevin, who has been doing this for 17 years, is the Missouri State Water-Ski Champion & 2000 US Masters Slalom Champion. He also is the owner of Alliance Group Inc., a company that makes chemicals for water treatment plants. When last year’s water skiing had to be cancelled because of ice on the river, Kevin and a fellow club member punched a hole through the ice and jumped into the water to keep the fund raiser going.
The event promoted the Adapted Water Ski program of the St. Louis Wheelchair Athletic Association (SLWAA), a nonprofit disabled sports organization that provides wheelchair athletics and adapted sports programs for children and adults with permanent physical disabilities. The organization works with individuals who have acquired spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, amputations, cerebral palsy, head injuries, bone tumors, polio, brittle bone disease, and other neuro-muscular disorders.
Day and his Labrador retriever, Jet-Ski, hit the river with pledges totaling more than $3,400. Kevin’s goal is to raise $5,000 for the summer program and to purchase more adapted water ski equipment. St. Louis personality, Brian McKenna of KLOU 103.3 Radio & KSDK Channel 5 Sports Plus, took to the water too for the first time.
Using a Freedom Sit-Ski, Vito Lucido, a quadriplegic wheelchair athlete and adapted water skiing instructor, hit the swift moving river. ''You don't realize just how fast the water is moving down river until you're in it,'' he said. This was Vito's third time skiing on New Year's Day, and he had no problem maneuvering with a scuba dry suit on, either. While the dry suit keeps the water away from your body, it still doesn’t save you from the cold.
One trick is to avoid contact with the water all together as Dave Diederich was able to do. Diederich, 43, started from the dock and coasted back to the same spot after his run without once splashing down. ''I never get in it,'' he said. ''That’s the whole idea.''
A false start, however, pulled Alton Water Ski Club member Gayle Beilsmith into the water. ''The cold water over your head just takes your breath away,'' said Beilsmith, who was celebrating her 40th birthday. ''Water skiing keeps me young,'' she said.
Learn To Water Ski Clinics for the Disabled will be held in St. Louis and Southern Illinois from June through September during 2002. A two-day event at Creve Coeur Lake in St. Louis will be held July 19-20. Water ski instructors, boat drivers, Jet-Ski operators, firefighters, and those who work with the disabled in rehabilitation settings are invited to participate in these clinics. Firefighters can practice their swift water rescue skills utilizing Jet Ski watercraft during the clinics.
Last summer’s SLWAA Learn To Water Ski clinics involved over 100 volunteers and helped more than 70 people with disabilities enjoy a day at the lake. Clinics were held in St. Louis, Missouri, and West Frankfort, Illinois. Generous support came from Malibu Boats, Dan’s Boats, Show Me Aquatics, the ROHO group, Alton Water Ski Club, Rehab Medical, Gasaway Pharmacy, Bud’s Place, STATEAMIND Water Sports, St. Louis County Parks & Recreation, AGI, and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1889.
Disabled sports (like adapted water skiing) and many other wheelchair athletic programs are a great way to provide the disabled with a way to remain active and to acquire some of the necessary skills for living independently and enjoying a more fulfilling and rewarding life.
For information on Adapted Water Skiing opportunities in the St. Louis area please contact Vito Lucido at (636) 458-2573 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.