Waypoint Adventurers Have One Message: 'I Can'

Waypoint Adventurers Have One Message: 'I Can'

The first voyage from Magazine Beach's new boat launch took place on Thursday despite postponement of official opening ceremony.

It’s a perfect night to be on the Charles River: 70° with a light breeze and partial cloud cover. Nearby, the Cambridge streets are clogged with rush hour traffic but step into Magazine Beach Park and the atmosphere could not be more contrastive. The 17 acre public park stretches along the shoreline of the Charles from Pleasant St to the BU Bridge and features an olympic sized swimming pool, fitness pads, baseball diamonds, and more. According to Kathy Zusy, president of the group Magazine Beach Partners which oversees the park, the area has been undergoing improvements since 2010 to make it more accessible to the city’s diverse community. One of the projects that the group has been working on is an ADA accessible boat launch. The launch is what has brought me here today.

The launch’s official opening and ribbon cutting was scheduled for tonight, but because the forecast threatened rain, it is to be postponed to a date in August. However, the group of kayakers who were to make the inaugural launch from the ramp are not deterred by the possibility of showers, nor are they deterred by much else.

The group gathered here today is led by the Lexington based non-profit organization Waypoint. Waypoint works with people with disabilities to get them to challenge themselves through adventure learning experiences such as kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking. I am introduced to the organization by Eileen Turpin, Waypoint’s head of curriculum design who tells me, “we like to focus on going on adventures and enjoying the outdoors and the ability to challenge people to take risks that they normally wouldn’t get to do in their lives, but all through the supports they need either cognitively or physically or otherwise.”

Throughout the event, I witness many of the ways in which Waypoint is able to assist people in overcoming limitations to achieve a goal. One such example comes when volunteer Mary Sabelli works with a visually impaired participant to set up her kayak paddles. I ask Eileen to explain the process to me as the two work and she does so, “for participants who have a vision impairment or are blind, we create a tactile paddle to help you orient the paddle in the water because you want to be able to get the maximum amount of power [from each stroke].” To do this, all Waypoint does is tape a toothpick or stick to the paddle where the participants’ knuckles should be positioned. This way, if the paddle is put down or shifts during their time on the water, they will be able to reorient it on their own.

I get the chance to introduce myself to a few other participants as well, one of whom tells me a bit about a theme that Waypoint has decided on for this summer. The theme is ‘I Can’ and focuses on empowering people with disabilities to prove to themselves and others that their disability does not limit their potential.

Lydia McClymonds has been a participant of many past Waypoint adventures and tells me a bit about what the ‘I Can’ theme means to her. “I like being in the house more,” She explains, “Waypoint says, ‘hey, why not come outdoors?’” The group gives her the motivation and confidence to push the borders of her comfort zone and, so far, it has paid off. Lydia has been kayaking with Waypoint before; tonight, she says she’s just excited to be out on the water having fun, but this wasn’t always the case for her. On earlier trips, the boats were much more daunting, “it would be a challenge getting in or a challenge getting out.” Today, though, she says she feels confident.

Another participant, Andrew Marney, has had a similar experience with Waypoint. He found the program through the Cotting School in Lexington, MA. The school is a private, non-profit for children with special needs and works closely with Waypoint. Andrew went kayaking with the program a few summers ago and tells me he was hooked right away, “I said, ‘heck with it, I’m doing Waypoint!’”. He too says that Waypoint helps him stay active and confident. “[Waypoint] Gets me out of the house and gets me fierce!...Gets me to take on new challenges in my lifestyle”.

Mrs. Messina, Mother of two of tonight’s participants, Evan and Makayla, says she especially likes that the program allows both of her two eldest children to take part. “His sister who is neurotypical is a moderating force with him...We like the idea of unified sports and so it’s nice that siblings can be included as well. I think it makes for more natural interaction.”

Messina says that Evan is passionate about sports but that it can be difficult for him to participate at the high school level where teams start making cuts. He especially enjoys being on the water and they have done some kayaking as a family, but she says that it can be challenging. “It takes a lot for us because there are five of us in the family, we have a baby, and Evan really needs one-on-one [assistance].”

By now, the group has formed a circle to hold a brief preview meeting. The staff and participants introduce themselves, review the night’s agenda, demonstrate the proper way to wear a life vest, and, finally, partner up to begin their adventure. It is nearing 7pm as the group begins to board their kayaks and prepares to make one of the first journeys from Magazine Beach’s newest launch. As they do so, spirits are high, the weather is mild, and one of the last discussions the group shared before setting off still rings in the air.

Eileen: “Sometimes...the world is set up to tell you you can’t...What’s a good reason to tell yourself ‘I Can’?”
The group responds:
“To prove people wrong”
“To change people’s minds
And, because “I’m a risk taker”.

For more information on Waypoint, visit their website here. To explore Magazine Beach Park, browse other events, and learn a bit more about the area’s history, check out https://magazinebeach.org/.