The Disabled Sailing Association is an independent, charitable society dedicated to enriching the lives of people with significant disabilities through recreational and competitive sailing.
The organization essentially began through the efforts of Sam Sullivan. According to their website, www.reachdisability.org/dsa, “At Expo '86, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher donated a British-made Sunbird sailboat to Rick Hansen in honour of his “Man in Motion” world tour. In 1988, Rick presented the boat to Sam Sullivan, who subsequently used it to help found the Disabled Sailing Association of BC (DSA). Within a few short years, DSA had a total of 16 specially adapted Sunbird sailboats in three British Columbia Chapters -- Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna.”
According to David Ostro, funds development manager for DSA BC says, “(Sam) accepted the Sunbird and the challenge. That one boat started it all and it didn’t take long for the program to expand.”
The program provides opportunities for recreational and competitive sailing as well as instruction for first-time sailors. “Sam’s philosophy is that people need opportunities to enjoy life,” he says.
This is largely possible through the development of the Martin 16. Don Martin created the Martin 16, a boat designed to adapt more to people with special needs. “People who can’t use their hands, can still use this boat. It is specially designed. It is virtually unsinkable and untippable,” says Eaton. Designed and built in Vancouver, the Martin 16 is becoming the standard for disabled sailors everywhere.
Their website states, “Our core program is outfitted for a variety of disabilities and sailing skill levels. With the Sip n' Puff control system and the Martin 16 sailboat even high quadriplegics--those with no movement below the neck--can sail.”
“Our objective is to provide programs and services that promote active, healthier lifestyles and a greater independence for our participants,” says Ostro. Based on their objective, it seems to be working. “Three of our members got the bronze medal in Sydney,” he says.
According to Ostro the program is heavily volunteer driven. “We have very dedicated and caring volunteers. They help board, accompany and teach participants how to sail. They are very important”
There are about 300 participants and 80 volunteers right now.
Events such as the upcoming Mobility Cup already have 200 volunteers signed up to help during the five day event. The Mobility Cup is Canada's annual International Regatta for sailors with disabilities. This year’s event will be held Sept. 11 – 15, 2006, in Vancouver, B.C. It is hosted by the Disabled Sailing Association of BC and the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.
And while the organization also counts on donations and grants from sources throughout the community, they also have a unique initiative in place to help raise funds to keep the program running.
One example is the Boat Donation Program “When people have a boat they no longer want or need, they donate it to us and we turn around and sell the boat and use the proceeds to fund out program,” says Ostro.
Aside from the feeling of goodwill, donors receive recognition in a variety of ways: their names or logos are displayed on the Martin 16 Sailboats, as well as on signage and all donors are mentioned by name on all DSA correspondence and publications.
The Disabled Sailing Association has changed the lives of many people since its inception by providing its participants with their very own taste of the open waters. With added support from the community, volunteers and donors, the DSA will continue to expand and further enrich the lives of those who need it.