Wheelchair skiers realize dreams on Fountain Lake

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2002

A few dreams came true on Fountain Lake Tuesday as wheelchair athletes from around the nation got the opportunity to waterski.

A group of 45 skiers, therapists and counselors from the National Wheelchair Sports and Recreation Camp, taking place June 22-27 at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch in Stewartville, enjoyed an afternoon on the water. They were detoured from a Rochester area lake because of high water and made a last-minute decision to come to Albert Lea.

&uot;One of the guys told me it has been his dream to waterski for the last thirty-some years,&uot; said camp leader Bob Bardwell. &uot;I told him this is the day.&uot;

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Bardwell also praised the campers’ ability to overcome their fears, since many had never been in a large body of water before. Using a specially widened ski with a chair-like attachment mounted to it, skiers either held a short rope attached to a boom on the side of the boat or were pulled using a traditional long rope from directly behind the boat.

Camp participants are all quadra or paraplegic individuals; they ranged widely in age from youths to older adults and came to the camp from 12 states.

As part of the six-day camp they learn skills in 12 wheelchair sports and work with a professional wheelchair athlete.

Bardwell himself has had a successful wheelchair road-racing career; this September he will compete in his 100th marathon in the last 20 years.

The camp’s other goal is to train the athletes to be missionaries to foreign countries where wheelchair sports are little known. Groups have already taken wheelchairs to Romania, Ghana, Africa, and counties in South America.

&uot;We want to prepare these people so that someday they can go and teach others,&uot; said Bardwell.

For more information on the Nation Wheelchair Sports and Recreation Camp, visit Ironwood Springs’ Web site at http://www.ironwoodsprings.com.