by Kay Overfield
It's terrific to watch people who have never kayaked before, learn how, then get in a boat with their child in front of them and take off happily to paddle about watching loons dive, seeing eagles overhead and waving to other people on paddle boards and in boats.
Some take a fishing pole along, and we've seen a few catch good-size bass. Usually, after a fly-tying activity, the group heads out in a special fishing boat to try their luck with fly rods. All the activities are for families for fun and they all seem delighted to be doing things together in the Maine sunshine.
There is a monster six-person paddle board available. One morning, three people took off for the island on the board. There was one woman staff member, two vets who were double amputees, and an eager Golden Retriever service dog the first to jump aboard. When they returned, both men on the paddle board stood on their heads facing the dock and flipped backwards into the lake in unison. A great sense of fun. A Kodak moment. The dog followed. The men swam to the ramp and bounced around there. The dog tried to imitate their every move. You could almost see a smile on that dog's face. Laughter and light-heartedness. The lake, the sunshine, the family time all healing.
Someone on the dock mentioned that lunchtime was almost over. "Better get on up to the dining room," he said. One guy replied, "Who cares?" His head-standing friend nodded in agreement. Another, also a double amputee, got into his wheelchair (no assistance needed) and asked if he should take his towel with him. "I'm coming back for sure after lunch," he said with a big grin. "This place is awesome."
It may sound easy, but what makes the program run smoothly is the staff of experts with know-how in adaptive sports. They also have great people skills as well, and make it easy for guests to explore and try new activities they can share with their families.
Kay Overfield is a volunteer at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat.