Working with the department, Cowes Sailability Club arranged exciting days out on the water for young Islanders who have physical or learning disabilities. The young people were able to enjoy trips on a specially adapted, wheelchair-accessible motor boat, along with their parents and siblings.
Paul Wilks, Commodore of Cowes Sailability Club, said: “It can be so difficult for parents to find fun activities to do with their children, when one person in the family has a disability. It was lovely to be able to provide accessible boating trips and see so many Island families having a great day out together.”
Kathy Marriott, head of strategy and operations for children’s services, went along to see one of the trips in action. She said: “What a fantastic experience for all the children and families – especially after the past year. The joy on the children’s faces was so special to see and the inclusive approach of all the volunteers and the skipper was superb. A huge thank you from all of us at children’s services! You have made some very special memories for our children.”
Boating activities can really improve children’s confidence and mental health, by enabling them to have new experiences in a safe environment. Many of the children had never had the opportunity to take part in water-based activities before due to their disabilities — and they all had a great time.
Councillor Debbie Andre, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “What an absolutely brilliant opportunity this was, organised by our dedicated children’s services team and I’d like to thank Cowes Sailability Club for making this happen. Our young people were quite fearless as they were able to take the wheel and the freedom that this afforded them was a rare experience to witness. It was also a good opportunity to listen to parents about the daily challenges that they face.
“The children and their families certainly had an amazing time and I’d also like to thank our children’s services team for helping to ensure the families continue to have the chance to take part in inclusive activities such as this.”
Cowes North ward councillor, Richard Quigley, was among the visitors who observed the positive impact that the boating trips had on the young people. He said: “It was a privilege to go out with Cowes Sailability Club and see the amazing work this charity does. You can see the difference in confidence from when a young person gets on a boat to when they get off. The smiles say it all.”
The boat trips were organised in association with the Wetwheels Foundation and took place on a nine-metre catamaran called Wetwheels Solent. Owned and operated by the Wetwheels Foundation, the boat has been specially designed to cater for people with disabilities and can accommodate up to three wheelchair users at any one time. In total, 60 places on the boat were made available to the children’s services department and then allocated to families across the Isle of Wight.