Ardenia Burney and Lynne Schaefer, participants in an adapted water sports clinic, enjoy tubing on the Pamlico River. ECU students in recreational therapy and rehabilitation counseling volunteered to help in the June 14 clinic, which provided a learning experience for students while offering clinic participants a chance to have some fun in the water. (Contributed photos)

ECU students assist in adapted recreational water sports clinic

July 2, 2014

By Kathy Muse
For ECU News Services

East Carolina University students responded to June's soaring temperatures by trading in their traditional classroom environment for a refreshing dip in the Pamlico River.

Students from ECU's recreational therapy and rehabilitation counseling programs joined in a real world adapted recreation learning experience, getting their feet wet by volunteering with the adapted water sports clinic June 14 at the Roanoke Christian Service Camp in Washington, North Carolina.

Loy Amanda & Rachel
ECU professor David Loy, center, along with ECU recreational therapy students Rachel Aycock, left, and Amanda Keyser, perform a water safety test before a participant can join in adapted water sports at the clinic.
The students learned techniques for assisting individuals with disabilities while the clinic participants enjoyed an afternoon of adapted water sports. Before the participants arrived, ECU recreation and leisure studies professors David Loy, Thom Skalko and Richard Williams taught the students how to facilitate transfers from a wheelchair to a mat, bench, adapted equipment or into the water.

“This event allowed our students to interact with individuals with disabilities and see the possibilities of staying active after a disability,” Loy said. “We teach applied skills but there is nothing like working with individuals with disabilities in applied settings."

Among the student volunteers was Rachel Aycock of Norlina, a recreational therapy student who was helping out with adapted sports for the first time. Aycock observed how excited the participants were about the water-related activities.

“I saw firsthand how recreational therapy can change a person's life,“ she said.

Volunteer Amanda Keyser of Wake Forest worked with participants in safety procedures to ensure they could hold their breath in the water and could flip to their back while wearing a life preserver. She also helped participants get into water tubes or skis.

Clinic participant Brent Carpenter, who was a big fan of water sports before a diving accident, enjoys water skiing at the June 14 clinic.
Matt Putts, of Sparta, New Jersey, volunteered at the event for the second year. Putts, a doctoral student in rehabilitation counseling and administration said, “An essential part of working with individuals with disabilities is working as a partner with the participant to help them take on valued roles in their community, including social roles and opportunities to recreate."

“Aside from being fun, this clinic is often a huge confidence boost for participants,” Putts said. “I believe this confidence goes beyond the activities of the day.”

Clinic activities included waterskiing, tubing and kayaking. Land-based sports were offered for those who were not comfortable being in the water. The program was sponsored by STAR (Support Team for Active Recreation).

STAR board member Jim Barrett, manager of the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Vidant Medical Center, said approximately 65 people participated in the clinic. He said events like the ski clinic provide valuable interaction for students because recreational therapists often only see patients for hour-long training sessions in a clinical setting.

“Students see individuals trying new things and figuring out that there is much more in life they can do –with a few modifications – than they ever dreamed,” Barrett said.

Brent Carpenter, 32, was one of the participants. “I was waiting for this event all year,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter, who has quadriplegia, sustained injuries in 2005 while diving into a swimming pool. He described himself as a daredevil who enjoyed water skiing and wakeboarding before his injury.

“Students jumped in and were willing to help,” said Carpenter. “It seemed like they had been doing this all of their life.”

STAR is a self-help support group that promotes independence through social and adapted recreational activities and community outreach. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities through socialization, education and adapted recreation.

The multi-disciplinary event drew students from two ECU programs: recreational therapy in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, College of Health and Human Performance; and rehabilitation counseling and administration in the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies, College of Allied Health Sciences.

The water ski clinic provided opportunities for sports enthusiasts like Brent Carpenter, pictured below, to enjoy adapted recreational activities on the water.