ELDORADO, Kan.- For one wet and wild weekend each summer, disabled athletes can water ski, jet ski and act like any other beachgoer during the hot summer months.
The 16th annual Summer Splash, held Aug. 18 and 19, was sponsored by Via Christi Home Care and its rehab arm, Our Lady of Lourdes. The provider kicks in both money and time, helping coordinate everything from dozens of volunteers to fuel and equipment donations.
Chris Tretheway, director of sales and marketing for the Wichita-based healthcare network, said the August event offers participants the chance to ease back into the community after a devastating diagnosis or injury.
"They've experienced a life-changing situation," said Tretheway. "This gets people to challenge themselves despite their limitations. They see that they can do this. It impacts their life plan: where they are going, where they want to be."
This year's event drew 24 participants. While the focus is on fun, Tretheway said safety is the highest priority. Before diving into the activities, a water-surfacing assessment is performed to gauge how much help a skier might need.
Typically, jet-ski rides consist of two able-bodied people controlling the watercraft and providing support, with the camper sitting in the middle.
For campers who want to water ski, special skis feature a frame for the user to sit in with their feet tucked in.
"The boat takes off and we have two trained volunteers that chase the skier, so if they capsize, they jump right in and upright him," said Tretheway.
The day wraps up with a campfire and musical entertainment.