Kinsmen Beach in Lower Sackville is hosting a special group of young athletes three times a week in a program designed just for them.
PaddleAll, an initiative of Canoekayak Canada, is a program that gives anyone who has a physical or mental disability the chance to learn and love the sport of paddling. It is unique in that it not only teaches the athletes a sport, but it creates social opportunities and perhaps most importantly a sense of independence not always found in other sports and activities designed for people with special needs.
Heather Berrigan said PaddleAll is the only real physical activity her son Liam gets - and he loves it.
"He has improved so much over the past three year," she said of Liam, who has autism. "It's a wonderful program."
Program coordinator and coach Nicole Ferianek said PaddleAll is growing in leaps and bounds. It started out five years ago with a handful of people and now has 18 athletes registered.
"It's amazing," she said. "These paddlers learn the same as anyone else. They keep falling in the water until they learn to balance and they practice."
Patrick Renni is one participant who has fallen in the water and in love with the sport.
"Being in the kayak is awesome," said Renni. "It's a lot more fun than other things I've done in the past."
A brain tumour left 19 year-old Renni with impaired vision and physical disabilities affecting his balance.
"Being able to balance in the water makes me more stable than usual," he said. "Sure I fall, but that's all part of it."
Sack-A-Way is the only club east of Ontario with an organized PaddleAll program and it is nationally certified.
This weekend on July 27, athletes from PaddleAll will be competing at the provincial qualifiers at Lake Banook.
"They'll be there racing and earning points for our club," said Ferianek. "We've got some great athletes here."
For more information visit www.sackawa.ca.