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Group promotes outdoor adventures for the disabled

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LEWISVILLE LAKE — Nine-year-old Joshua Vandiver stood in a folding chair so he could see at the helm of a 70-foot catamaran on Lewisville Lake on Sunday morning.

“He’s such a natural,” said the boat’s captain, Julie Jacob. “He just feels the wind in his hair and he knows where he’s going.”

Joshua, who has spina bifida, took the cruise as part of an outing with RISE Adventures, a new nonprofit organization for North Texas. The group’s goal is to encourage independence among those with physical disabilities by teaching them how to participate in adapted sports and other outdoor activities.

Jackie Bartels of Euless, a board member and spokeswoman for the organization, said that most sports have handicapped counterparts, but that many disabled people aren’t aware of such options.

After suffering a spinal cord injury at 13, Bartels was encouraged by a motivational speaker to play wheelchair tennis, which she didn’t know existed then. She later attended the University of Texas at Arlington on a tennis scholarship.

“People don’t know where to go or what to do,” said Bartels, 23, who was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Texas this year. “We want people with physical disabilities to know that they can be physically and socially active.”

The sailing outing was the group’s first large-scale event, founder Paul Gray said. The boat was donated by Big D Cats, which charters trips from the Pier 121 Marina. About 100 attendees, from children to middle-aged adults, signed up for the two Sunday cruises.

Events being planned include hand-cycling clinics and kayaking. Volunteer Matt Meadows, who owns the sailing school Sail Dallas, said he is equipping one of his boats to be run by disabled sailors and hopes to start classes.

Other possibilities Gray named include horseback riding and parasailing, which sends people airborne on a parachute being pulled behind a speedboat.

“They may not [be] able to walk but I guarantee they can fly,” Gray said.

As Joshua finished his turn at the helm, a line was forming behind him. He said he liked controlling the boat and might one day like to become a sailor — not a pirate, a good guy.

“When can I learn more about sailing?” he asked.

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

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