When it’s more than participation

This summer Bridget was beyond lucky to participate in the Sail Cape Cod adaptive sailing program thru the Special Olympics and Kennedy Donovan Center.  Adult and teenage volunteers taught Bridget and her peers every aspect of sailing. They learned to tack, to raise the sail and to race.

Just like almost every child that lives on Cape Cod, Bridget got to experience the sea.

On her own.



It was a lesson in how we sometimes over parent Bridget. As I watched her walk down the dock with people I do not know but were trusting not to let her try to catch a mermaid.  Usually when we let Bridget experience something, we are holding her hand or at least supervising. This summer we learned to let go a bit and let her experience something for the first time on her own.

She loved it.

She participated. She did not just sit on my lap as she enjoyed the sail. I wasn’t on the boat so I could not coddle her. I could not caution her to keep her hands in the boat or to sit quietly.

She was an active member of the crew. She used the tiller to direct the boat, she raised the sails in the harbor and learned to tack. She and her crew raced against other boats and won. As the youngest (and smallest) participant I was nervous that she would just sit and enjoy the ride. Her typical peers and the Olympians allowed her to be an active member of the team. She was a part of something special, not because it was adaptive but because the coaches and peers made the lessons inclusive.

The Sail Cape Cod volunteers had no special training. They were just kind and natural with the Olympians. They were patient as they shared their knowledge and pushed our Olympians to succeed.  This was the first time I had seen full inclusion in action. They had expectations for the sailors and they held them to the same standards any other sailor.  When Bridget tried to catch the mermaid, they redirected her and reminded her that she had a job on the boat.

I am not a parent that believes every child deserves a trophy. But I have never been prouder of Bridget as she held up her participation certificate.


She participated and it was awesome.


From the bottom of this mother’s heart…Thank you to the coaches and volunteers of Sail Cape Cod for showing Bridget your love of the wind, the sea and giving her the ability to tack her way thru the sport. She loves all of you and what you have taught her. Your kindness will not be forgotten. We cannot wait until next year.  

If you would like to support the program, Sail Cape Cod is a non-profit in Hyannis. It is simple, use Amazon Smile and make their program your charity to support or donate through their website.


1 thought on “When it’s more than participation

  1. Brenda Balboni

    That is so awesome!!! That must of been so hard for you to watch her sail out to sea.Glad there are people willing to help in programs like that.



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