Sunset Water Sports puts Moffat Family Funds to use

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

A grant awarded from the Moffat Family Fund has materialized into real life, with the purchase of a trailer, destined to become an accessible washroom

Sunset Water Sports was recently awarded $14,000 from the Moffat Family Fund to purchase a 24 ft by 8 ft. trailer to install a wheelchair-accessible washroom and carry their equipment while travelling.

Mar Fraczkiewicz is a certified adaptive water sports trainer and co-owns Sunset Water Sports with Shawna McRitchie, his business partner. 

Fraczkiewicz said when they got the funding, West End Motors helped them find a trailer that was within the grant’s budget. 

“This is going to be a huge game changer for us as far as being able to offer that little bit extra for everyone to be more comfortable on that lake,” Fraczkiewicz said. “We want to break down those barriers. The trailer will be able to travel with us to all the beaches that we go to. We are going to go to Kenora, Thunder Bay and all the small towns.”

Fraczkiewicz said when they held events in town, it was quite the distance people with disabilities had to go to in order to access a washroom – often having to drive for about 10 blocks.

“If we can have a washroom right here, they can use it,” Fraczkiewicz said. “They’re just regular washrooms. This way we can accommodate them. We’re also going to add an outdoor shower so they can rinse down after they are on the lake. We are trying to make them more user-friendly for anyone with any disability to be able to use.”

McRitchie has always been an advocate for having water sports be accessible to people with physical disabilities. 

Chad Avis, left, and Mar Fraczkiewicz, right, stand in front of the trailer West End Motors sold to Sunset Water Sports. The trailer will house a wheelchair accessible washroom and carry water equipment, including adaptive ones, to different location. – Merna Emara photo

“This past year has been a struggle for me,” McRitchie said. “My mobility has decreased and I have a disability. This trailer is just one more piece of equipment that we are using to remove barriers.”

Fraczkiewicz’s goal is to break down barriers in order for everyone to have an equal chance of enjoying the lake and different water sports.

“Anytime we break down a barrier, people we serve can’t believe we actually got it,” Fraczkiewicz said. “They’re happy to see that they are included in everything. There is no barrier for them. They can enjoy the lake without having to worry about accessing the closest washroom.”

The trailer will not just house a washroom, it will also carry all the equipment from town to distant beaches. There will also be a small fridge to keep drinks cool. 

Fraczkiewicz is currently looking at a used camper in order to take all of the parts and install them in the new trailer, including an air conditioning unit. 

“I’m trying to keep the budget down,” Fraczkiewicz said. “It’s not cheap to get a [new] trailer. Once I get the parts, I’m hoping to have it done this season. My goal is to start using it within a couple of weeks.”

Sunset Water Sports is also modifying a pontoon boat to be wheelchair accessible. They are also looking at a wheelchair-lifting crane that can be used to put people inside regular boats to go fishing or cruising.

Because specialized equipment is expensive, Fraczkiewicz said they will try to get sponsors to help offset the cost associated with buying and maintaining the equipment.

“It’s a moving billboard, so we are hoping to get more sponsors,” Fraczkiewicz said. “Not only will they be seeing it around Fort Frances and all the lakes surrounding here, but also in Kenora, Thunder Bay and Dryden. I also want to venture into Manitoba.”

McRitchie said everyone has been supportive in the pursuit of making water sports accessible, adding that it is very humbling having the Moffat Family Fund committee believe in their project.

“It makes me proud to be part of a town that supports its small businesses,” McRitchie said. “We are a small town, but we can do big things.”