“It was a beautiful, joy-filled celebration of physical and intellectual diversity. It reinforced the collective self-esteem of our guests, helping them feel a sense of belonging to main stream society,” says Jay Van Vechten, co-director and Bash founder. “At this once-a-year party every guest is greeted like a VIP, in the safe, welcoming environment of Spanish River Park, one of the most scenic, coastal, green-areas remaining on Florida’s Gold Coast.”
2000 Guest Treated to Rides on Intracoastal Aboard 30 Yachts Lent for the Occasion
Each year the Boating & Beach Bash has partnered with the members of Boca Raton’s famed Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club (RPY&CC), to provide Bash guests with boat rides on the Intracoastal Waterway, Florida’s acclaimed inland river. For five hours this year some 2000 children and adults were helped aboard, even carried aboard in their wheelchairs, to enjoy rides on 30 yachts donated by their owners, and captained by a hand-picked list of South Florida’s leading, licensed captains. Additionally, Shake A Leg Miami, an accessible water sports facility, and Lagoon Keepers of Palm Beach, offered jaunts on accessible pontoon boats.
Zack Rice, co-director of the Bash and Marina Manager at RPY&CC says, “It is remarkable to see how the special needs population rejoices in something as simple as a boat ride. We take it for granted, but for most of our guests this was their first-ever ride on a boat, or the one day a year they get to experience what makes Florida living so special; boating on our waterways.”
Purple Heart Veterans Saluted as Young Guest Paints “Beautiful Just as We Are”
This year the Bash paid special tribute to America’s veterans by teaming with the VA Hospital in West Palm Beach, and with Wounded Warriors in Action (WWIAF), a Florida based foundation, to invite 400 Purple Heart recipients, their spouses and kids to be among the honored guests of the day. WWIAF works exclusively with Purple Heart recipients, utilizing the outdoors to help heal body mind and spirit of our nation’s injured warriors.
In line with the event’s patriotic overtone, the Color Guard from Boca Raton High School’s Junior Navy ROTC program, set the tone early in the day with a ceremonial opening and remarks from Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel, Council Women Susan Hayne and Constance Scott. Boca’s own teen singing sensation, Kendra Fulmer, sang the National Anthem before providing an hour long concert with music from her new cd ‘DANCE WITH YOU’.
“Other performances for the day, guided by DJ Sean Hennessy of Double Entertainment, came from the Pat Kennedy Band,” says Bash event manager Lisa Hamilton Johnson of TLC Mobility. “Every member of the band has a disability, but they rocked the park and got those who could, up and dancing, while those who couldn’t clapped along to the beat from their wheelchairs.”
As the party got into full swing, 20 leather-clad Harley Motor Cycle riders, members of the Big Bikers Children’s Foundation and Downtown Baggers of Fort Lauderdale, roared into the park to help where needed. They interacted with guests, assisted kids and the elderly while distributing 1000 free T-shirts to grateful recipients. “These guys were awesome,” said Van Vechten.
At the center of the Bash, 25 tents were lined up to showcase exhibitors that provide local services and goods specific to the needs of the disability community. From car companies that adapt vehicles for drivers and passengers with physical challenges, to financial institutions that provide special needs trusts, Bash guests were given an chance to learn more about life’s options to ease their specific needs. One mom discovered to her delight that her son qualified to receive a free service dog. She had no idea until she visited the Canine Companions Tent.
6000 Hamburgers and Hotdogs Cooked Up to Order
In the heart of the park, Bash volunteers stood over a massive BBQ pit, side by side with the celebrated chefs of RPY&CC, cooking 6,000 hamburgers and hotdogs to serve, with all the trimmings, to happy revelers. Most guests dined under the groves of banyans, palms and sea grape trees clustered around the great lawns of the lush park. “It really felt like an old fashioned picnic, “says Van Vechten. “The Cameo Barbershop Quartet and ‘Sensation,’
Ponies, Puppies and Gators…OH BOY!
Elsewhere in the park, therapy ponies the size of large dogs, and large dogs with gentle service-trained temperaments, wandered among visitors, stopping to be patted by the adoring crowd. In the center of the picnic area the Animal Planet’s ‘Gator Boys’ let guests touch and even hold baby gators, while a Discovery Channel film crew captured the awe on people’s faces.
Down at the Intracoastal waterfront, close to the boat rides, guests discovered a dedicated Kids’ Fun Zone, sponsored by Unicorn Children’s Foundation and created by Twin Palms Center for the Disabled. Here children and youngsters of all ages and special needs were offered painting and coloring options under the watchful eye of the Boca Raton Children’s Museum and Museum of Art. A highlight of the area was a 12-foot long blank canvas, where kids and adults could express themselves in shapes, colors and words. One slogan, however, jumped off the canvas: “Beautiful just as we are.” To reach the canvas, which was on soft ground, the City of Hollywood, FL., kindly lent the Bash two Mobi Mats, 6’ x 50 feet in length, specifically designed as temporary rolling surfaces suited to those in wheelchairs. It made the mural accessible and easy to navigate for children painting from the confines of a wheelchair.
DJ with Cerebral Palsy Rocks the Dock
Also at the waterfront, close to the dock, 21 year old Korey Soderman, a popular South Florida DJ with cerebral palsy, got people dancing under the trees, or in their wheelchairs, to the disco sounds of today. At one point his dad, Kris Soderman, lifted Korey from his wheelchair and held him aloft while bouncing him in rhythm to the Black Eyed Peas, ‘I Gotta Feeling’. Korey rocked and laughed, rolling his head from side to side, following the beat of the song. Close by a half dozen able-bodied adult observers, stood with tears of admiration flowing for dad and son, and for how this one event touched so many hearts and lives.
The 2013 5th anniversary Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities is tentatively scheduled for March 16, 2013. Follow updates for the Bash on Facebook at Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities, or by visiting the event website at ww.boatingbeachbash.com.
(Editors please note: We have a wide variety of professional, high resolution photos available from VMA Studios of Boynton Beach, FL. We are happy to forward wonderful pictures from any and all aspects of the Boating & Beach Bash as described above. Thank you for your support)
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The Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities (www.boatingbeachbash.com)