Fun, freedom at Bartlett Lake for people with disabilities

RIO VERDE – For one day, 12-year-old Aidan Ringo forgot the endless days of doctor visits.

He got on a wake board and sped across Bartlett Lake with his friends and family by his side, and got the chance to experience other water adventures like kayaking, tubing, and jet skiing.

Tessa Ringo, Aidan’s mother, describes the opportunities for her child, born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, as magical.

“As soon as he gets on that wake board, I kind of always wipe a tear away,” Tessa Ringo said. “Just being so proud of him and being able to sit back and observe him gaining confidence, being independent, and having an experience that every 12-year-old can do.”

“It is amazing what they can do for kids that can’t go out on the lake that much,” said Aidan, his hair still damp from wake boarding. He said the Day at the Lake, as it’s called, let’s people focus on fun, not their disabilities, doctors’ visits “or whatever crazy stuff that’s been happening.”

Aidan Ringo and sister Ella share a touching moment at "Day on the Lake." (Photo by Allyson Hoskins/Cronkite News)

Aidan Ringo and sister Ella share a touching moment at “Day on the Lake.” (Photo by Allyson Hoskins/Cronkite News)

Aidan’s sister Ella is proud of her big brother.

“It is really exciting because I get to see my brother do stuff that he can’t really do,” Ella said. I’m glad he can do it.”

Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix hosts the weekend water activities for families that have children with disabilities and veterans. Last weekend was its 20th anniversary.

Children and adults can water or jet ski, go on a kayak or go tubing.

Brenna Bean, a recreation therapist and a volunteer for the lake event, has used a wheelchair since her spinal cord was injured when she was in a car accident when she was 18 years old.

“I love the adaptive activities they do here, so it really gives people with disabilities the chance to get out and try things that they never thought they would be able to do,” Bean said.

Jo Crawford, the program coordinator at Barrow Neurological Institute, based at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, said the event – the next one will not be until 2017 – offers one more way to enjoy life.

“Come out and live your life, you’ve been through so much,” Crawford said. “Come here and live it cause that’s what you’re here to do. That’s what we are going to help you do.”