Partnership launches adaptive water sports in region

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Child and Family Services in Fort Frances partners with Sunset Water Sports by donating $5,000 to buy adaptive water equipment.

Adaptive water equipment provides accessible water sports and recreational activities for individuals with physical limitations.

Shawna McRitchie, co-founder and co-owner of Sunset Water Sports, said they have been working on the partnership since June to reach the optimal agreement option that maximized their offerings.

“[Child and Family Services] has children on the autism spectrum,” McRitchie said. “They have other developmental disorders. In their programming they have children that have attachment or social and emotional issues, physical inabilities such as down syndrome and the fact that Child and Family Services partnered with us made this possible.”

Child and Family Services purchased two adaptive skies and donated them to Sunset Water Sports in exchange of their services.

“It is absolutely amazing the fact that we are working with Child and Family Services,” McRitchie said. “It brought a dream to reality. They are a huge organization that works with a lot of children that include the demographic that we are trying to service with the adaptive water sports.”

Kari Petrin is the family respite coordinator with Child and Family Services. Respite is a relief program for families with children with developmental disability.

She said she runs a program specifically for children with developmental disabilities for families with children who have special needs.

“Often they could use a break or maybe the child needs a helper in a social setting,” Petrin said. “And again, mom or dad may not be the best person to take them, so maybe they would have a worker take them. What our program does is provide relief for families by providing casual workers who we trained to work with children with developmental disabilities.”

Petrin said when she knew Mar Fraczkiewicz is a certified adaptive water sports trainer, the opportunity presented itself to reach out to them and purchase some adaptive water sports equipment.

Fraczkiewicz is a certified adaptive water sports trainer from Water Ski and Wakeboard Canada. During the training course, Fraczkiewicz worked with individuals paralyzed from the waist down.

“Through the partnership with them, we were able to provide funding to them to get the ski set for children to use,” Petrin said. “That creates a great opportunity for my program as well. We are partnering with them to create some opportunities for recreational respites. This is something we have not had in our community.”

When both adaptive skies arrived, McRitchie and Fraczkiewicz began training volunteers to use them in preparation of using them this fall.

“The lake is what we do in the summer time and we have such a beautiful area to be able to explore and do all these wonderful water activities that it is very exciting for all the families to be able to get the opportunity to participate in any of this,” Petrin said.

“Through this partnership we just want to continue to grow it and with more equipment we can better the community development. We want this to be an ongoing partnership to provide recreational from now and summers to come.”

There are currently about four volunteers getting trained to use the adaptive skies. McRitchie said there are also some other ways people can help. Sunset Water Sports are still doing their bottle drive where they collect beer and wine bottles and cash them out in Devlin. There is also a GoFundMe donations page that can be accessed by searching “Sunset watersports Fort Frances.”

“We are looking for as much help from as many areas as possible,” McRitchie said. “It does not always have to be financial. Somebody might know somebody who is affiliated with an organization that would purchase wheelchairs or donate time or anything to help this program grow. The more equipment we have the more people we can help and the more places we can go.”