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home : news : news Saturday, November 18, 2017

8/16/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
Ski clinic gets people with disabilities on the water (and wet)

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

Saturday, July 15, was a beautiful summer day.

It was a perfect day to enjoy any variety of outdoor pursuits - riding a bike, taking a walk, going fishing, or spending time on the river.

Matt Grillot of DeWitt and Derek Schroeder of Goose Lake chose the river.

And it turned out to be an unforgettable experience for both.

Forty-year-old Grillot and 34-year-old Schroeder took part in the Access to Waves Adaptive Water Ski Clinic.

The clinic is provided by Genesis, St. Ambrose University, and the Backwater Gamblers Water Ski Show Team.

The program allows people with various disabilities to learn to water ski with the help of Genesis volunteers and specially designed equipment.

Grillot, who suffered a spinal cord injury when he was just 6 years old, admitted the idea of being on the water made him a bit anxious.

But on that picturesque day, he decided to do it anyway.

"I hadn't been in a pool in 25 years," Grillot said. "But I wanted to try something new and different. I needed to get out of my own comfort zone."

Schroeder, on the other hand, couldn't wait.

"I was excited," he said. "I had never been [water skiing] before, and the weather was so nice ... sunny and warm."

Three years ago, Schroeder, a 2001 graduate of Northeast, injured his spinal cord in a dive into the Mississippi River.

While their accidents altered the course of their lives, neither Schroeder nor Grillot allows his injuries to define him.

Play in the spray

That Saturday, they joined people of all ages with various disabilities to - safely -experience the thrill of water skiing on the Rock River in Rock Island, Illinois,.

Grillot and Schroeder were able to sit back and enjoy the ride, using specialized equipment and with help from occupational therapy students from St. Ambrose University, members of the Backwater Gamblers Ski Club, and volunteers from Genesis Health Center.

For the most part.

"I do wish I would have worn goggles," Schroeder said with a smile. "We had people on skis riding on either side of us, and the boat in front of us. So, we had water spraying from a couple of different directions. But it was still a lot of fun."

Chris Heggen, the program coordinator for Access to Waves, said the typical reaction from clinic participants is an ear-to-ear grin.

"For anyone who is apprehensive, we welcome them to come down and watch," Heggen said. "They can see for themselves how awesome it is."

'Always reason for hope'

Both Grillot and Schroeder encourage others who are living with disabilities - whether they are physical or intellectual - to give the clinic a try.

Despite his reservations, Grillot is thankful he did.

"I was unsure about it," he admitted, "but once I was out there, I was glad."

As for Schroeder, who was a four-sport athlete in high school, he can now add water skiing to his list of activities.

Next on the list - snow skiing.

Schroeder found information online about an adaptive skiing program at Sundown Mountain in Dubuque.

He said he endeavors to stay positive by thinking about all he has to be thankful for, and he looks for inspiration from others who are in situations similar to his.

As for how much his accident changed his life, Schroeder said he simply has to work that much harder to achieve his aspirations.

"No matter how bad things get, there is always reason for hope," he said. "And, to focus on what is good in life, to set goals for yourself, and keep working until you reach those goals."

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