Four Miles of Fun

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

reaction from some of the families and friends wondering just exactly what we were going to do and how we were going to do it," Bergeson says.

Lewis and Springfield Park Board Recreational Supervisor Kevin Marquart were asking themselves those same questions three years ago. Marquart had the idea and Lewis had the boats.

"None of us had ever worked with people with disabilities before, so we learned as we taught," says Lewis.

"Initially, I think there was a little fear from parents and friends because they were worried about canoes tipping over. The disabled floaters themselves were apprehensive because they didn't know if it was possible or not," Beth Giest says. This was the fourth float trip for Giest, a former independent living specialist at the Southwest Center.

However, after a few meetings and training sessions, both teachers and pupils learned the trip was definitely feasible--with a few modifications.

One of those planning the trip was Gene Schoenhoff, the other co-owner of River Maddness. In addition to providing paddling instructions, he also took on the task of customizing some of the canoe seats to fit people in wheelchairs. In some cases, such as Hobbs', it was just a matter of providing ample support for the person in the canoe--sans chair.

For others, though, the wheels were removed so that their wheelchairs became chairs that fit in a canoe. Schoenhoff added a board that ran from one side of the canoe to the other to provide extra support for the wheelchair.

"Some people are comfortable in their wheelchairs and some need the side support," Schoenhoff explains. "I decided to use their existing chairs."

Overall, Schoenhoff says his work was just common sense, but Lewis isn't so modest.

"It's a picture of simplicity, but if someone charged for the work it would have cost us $500."

Schoenhoff and Lewis were two of the paddlers who would guide this trip. Both were equipped with radio headsets to contact each other and some of the other paddlers in the flotilla. The Niangua wasn't roaring, but it was growling in a few spots, thanks to rain two days before the trip. Everybody sported life jackets supplied by the Conservation Department. Safety was more than a good idea--it was imperative.

"Now is the time to check your egos in," Lewis told the paddlers in a pre-float huddle. "If you have any doubt about a spot, head for the bank and walk it."

Sage advice, but for this

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