Sarah Ford | June 6, 2014

Reeve Foundation Board Member Rediscovers Her ‘Sea Legs’

By Nate Herpich

When Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation board member Pat Volland was injured in a serious accident five years ago, one of her fears was that she would never be able to sail again. Pat and her husband Bob had long raced a 40-foot yacht out of Annapolis, Maryland; in fact they had spent much of their lives together on the open sea. But due to the nature of her injuries, it was far from certain that she’d ever captain a boat once more.

Then, last November, on a trip out to San Diego, the Vollands became acquainted with Reeve Foundation Quality of Life past grantee Challenged America, a unique organization that has offered adaptive and therapeutic sailing since 1978. Learning that she could actually sail again, and not merely ride as a passenger, Pat got into a boat for the first time since her accident.

“What an incredible feeling to be out on the water again, and in control,” she says.

Pat’s maiden voyage was with Challenged America volunteer Doug Shaw (each boat requires that a person with disability sail with one of the organization’s volunteers, for safety reasons.) Her particular boat was equipped with a Power Assist unit and joystick controller that allowed Pat to steer and also trim the sails. “It was such a confidence booster to be in charge,” she says.

Remarkably, during this inaugural return to the water, the shroud on Pat’s boat broke, bringing the ship’s mast crashing down, and leaving Pat and Doug to drift in San Diego Bay. Fortunately, both Pat and Doug were experienced sailors, and didn’t panic. While Doug cleared lines and kept the fallen mast and sails from causing any further damage or injury, Pat calmly operated the controller as he directed.

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