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					10 • THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2011
                                                                                 LIFE                                                                               OVER THE MOUNTAIN
                                                                                                                                                                    JOU RNAL

                 Each summer, Adaptive Aquatics hosts hundreds of disabled Alabamians of all ages and abilities on Lay Lake. Joe Ray, far right in front, teaches the
                 classes. Joe was paralyzed from the waste down in a car accident and has been water skiing ever since.                         Photo special to the Journal

                                      Hope Floats
                    Adaptive Aquatics Teaches Disabled to Water Ski and More
      BY LAURA MCALISTER                                                                                                                                  Walker Ray, 6, tries
      JOURNAL EDITOR                                                                                                                                      water skiing for the

                                                                                                                                                          first time at Adaptive
                fter a car accident left him paralyzed from                                                                                               Aquatics on Lay Lake
                the waist down when he was 20 years old,                                                                                                  in Wilsonville. Walker
                Joe Ray could have given up. Instead, he                                                                                                  of Mountain Brook
       went water skiing.                                                                                                                                 has low muscle tone,
           Now 53, Joe enjoyed the sport so much that he’s                                                                                                making traditional
       still doing it – and he’s also been teaching others with                                                                                           water skiing difficult,
       disabilities that they can do it, too.                                                                                                             but thanks to the
           Joe is executive director of Adaptive Aquatics on
                                                                                                                                                          equipment at Adaptive
                                          Lay Lake in nearby
                                          Wilsonville. The non-                                                                                           Aquatics, he can enjoy
                                          profit program serves                                                                                           the sport.
                                          handicapped people of                                                                                           Photo special to the Journal
                                          all ages and abilities
                                          throughout the state by
                                          teaching them how to
                                                                        “We moved to Alabama 111⁄2 years ago, and we’ve             Walker was born with a condition where he has lit-
The 3-Hour Tour is a fundraiser for water ski using adap-           just been overwhelmed by all the wonderful programs         tle muscle tone. Susan never really thought about the
Adaptive Aquatics. There will be live tive equipment that
                                          meets their special       for our son, and one of those is Adaptive Aquatics,”        possibility of her son water skiing until they met Joe.
entertainment plus a silent and live needs.                         she said. “Joe Ray has this incredible personality, and         “Joe says everybody can ski, and he’s absolutely
auction.                                      This year, Adaptive   he works with each of them to let them know their           right,” she said. “I was a little worried (Walker)
When: 6-9 p.m. April 28                   Aquatics will celebrate   full potential. When Abraham has gone, he’s felt very       wouldn’t be able to get up, but he popped right up.
                                          its 30th anniversary,     empowered.”                                                 He got it 100 percent and was able to do it all by him-
Where: SoHo’s Rosewood Hall                                             Empowering those with disabilities is what prompt-      self.”
Tickets: $60 a person or $100 a           as well as a new facil-
                                          ity, with its 3-Hour      ed Joe to get involved with Adaptive Aquatics in the            Joe’s students are often referred through programs
couple.                                                             first place.                                                like the Lakeshore Foundation and Camp ASCCA, but
Contact: Tour fundraiser set for
                                          April 28 at SoHo’s            The program was started by Phil Martin in 1980.         Joe does a lot of the recruiting himself.
                                          Rosewood Hall. The        Phil, a pioneer of adapted water skiing, also worked            “I get a lot of things I used to think thrown back
       event will include a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres,         with Camp ASCCA on Lake Martin teaching those               at me,” he said. “I used to think – I’ve never skied, I
       cash bar and entertainment.                                  with disabilities to water ski. That’s where Joe learned    can’t swim in a wheelchair. It’s just all about the adap-
           Tickets are $60 a person or $100 a couple. All           the skill.                                                  tations. Everybody’s disability is different.”
       proceeds benefit Adaptive Aquatics, which is funded              The adaptive equipment allowed him to trade his             While the sit ski enables those who are wheelchair-
       solely through donations.                                    wheelchair for a ski that he could ride on sitting down.    bound to ski, Joe said they also have equipment for
           “This fundraiser is very important,” said Natalie            “I just loved it, so Phil convinced me to start help-   those paralyzed just on one side of their body, people
       Hausman-Weiss of Mountain Brook. “This is such a             ing him teach,” Joe said. “It’s just great. Water really    with prosthetics and the blind. The program recently
       wonderful program, and Joe is absolutely committed           is freedom.                                                 began serving wounded veterans.
       to it. The equipment isn’t inexpensive, but he doesn’t           “For a person with a disability to be free of their         Adaptive Aquatics serves 600-800 each year from
       turn anyone away.”                                           chair or crutches or whatever they use – that empow-        April-Oct. Thanks to the new facility, Joe said, he
           Natalie found out about the program through the          ers them in such a way you just can’t measure it.”          hopes they can serve even more in the coming years.
       Lakeshore Foundation, where her son Abraham, 13,                 Susan Ray, no relation to Joe, of Mountain Brook            For more information on Adaptive Aquatics and its
       plays sports. Abraham was born with spina bifida and         agrees. Her son Walker, 6, attended an Adaptive             upcoming fundraiser, visit or call
       is paralyzed from the waist down.                            Aquatics clinic for the first time last summer.             Joe Ray at 807-7519. ❖