Adaptive watersports for individuals with disabilities coming to Lake Cumberland 


The Campbell family -- Tristan, wife Nanci, father Jason, daughter Jadyn, and son Chris, who was paralyzed in a car wreck in 2009 -- has been through a lot over the years but have carried on a love of outdoor recreational activities. Now, Jason hopes to bring adaptive watersports for people like Chris to Lake Cumberland.

One of the true blessings of this area is Lake Cumberland. It's a shame not everyone can use it.

But one local individual who knows that struggle well is working to change that.

The Lake Cumberland State Dock in Jamestown, Ky., in neighboring Russell County, is hosting an Adaptive Watersports Day today, which is designed to provide a day of fun on the water that's accessible to people with paralysis and other disabilities -- as well as making things fun for their loved ones.

"We've got a lot of different people from a lot of backgrounds and professional (specialties) together to do something like this," said organizer Jason Campbell. "We got everyone together that we possibly could."

That includes Jason himself, a physical therapist assistant, and Greg Dalton of Wake Cumberland Watersports, which offers lessons in things like wakesurfing, water skiing, and boat operation. Also involved are names like Lake Cumberland Marine, the Cardinal Hill rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington, and the Somerset Community College Physical Therapist Assistant program.

Jason's own son, Chris, is one of the individuals with disabilities who could benefit from something like this. Chris was injured in a car accident on Thurman Road on August 18, 2009. His life -- and the life of his family -- was forever changed.

"He was paralyzed from the chest down," said Jason of Chris, "and confined to a wheelchair. He did have a traumatic brain injury and has some problem-solving skills."

That's the reality Chris lives now. Following the accident, Chris was in a coma for 21 days and spent a significant amount of time at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. After coming out of the coma, Chris went to Cardinal Hill, where he stayed for around seven weeks to be treated for his brain injury.

Jason was a truck driver at the time but the day the accident happened, he quit his job and dedicated himself to staying with Chris full-time.'"Because he was under 18, I was allowed to live in the room at Cardinal Hill," said Jason. "I was able to sit through all of the occupational therapy and speech therapy sessions, and I saw what therapy did for him."

As such, Jason made a career change -- he became a physical therapist assistant.

That's allowed him to help plan the Adaptive Watersports outing, though that was inspired by his family's refusal to let Chris' injury stop them from living their lives.

"We started involved ourselves in a lot of recreational activities," said Jason. "We'd go to Virginia Beach for adaptive surfing, or Perfect North Slopes (in Lawrenceburg, Ind.) for adaptive snowskiing. But (Chris) is able to do things things maybe once a year. You and I can do them whenever we want. We've got Lake Cumberland here and nothing similar (to those activities) for him."

So Jason set out to change that. "With my background in physical therapy and my experience with (Chris), we just decided to get something going here."

Two boats are running at the event. One is pulling a three-person inner tube, which can fit one person with a disability and two able-bodied people also on the tube, and the other an adaptive sit-wakeboard, with or without outriggers to keep balance.

Jason said that they've received the Wellness Edge Grant, which is a federal grant dispersed by the University of Kentucky. The purpose of the grant is to acquire equipment and increase recreational activities -- not just to benefit those with disabilities, but also for their families.

"Our event, say someone is unable to even get on a wakeboard or inner tube, I want them to be able to at least get to the dock and I can teach their kids how to do these things and they can enjoy me teaching their kids how to do these things," said Jason.

Though the USA Waterski-sanctioned event Thursday, which goes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is currently fully booked for participants (though people can come out and watch if they wish) Jason wants more people to know about what they're trying to do and hopefully raise money to make such adaptive watersports events even better in the future.

"This is our kick-off event to get people on the water and raise awareness of needed adaptations in our area," he said.

Jason can reached at 606-271-0140 for more information.

"My ultimate goal for the future of this is to be able to fundraise to buy equipment o get anybody on the water with any disability, and fundraise to pay people's way," he said. "Getting people out on the lake (for adaptive watersports) is not cheap, but I'd like to be able to fundraise and make it free or a minimal charge eventually. These things take time."