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Colorado Springs water ski program marks 20 years of empowering disabled

By: Chhun Sun
July 12, 2017 Updated: July 13, 2017 at 7:40 am
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Trinity Kranz takes part in the 20th anniversary of the Adapted Water Ski Program at Prospect Lake on Wednesday July 12, 2017. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

When Jodi Labosky began water skiing, she used special equipment that allowed her to sit down while gliding on water.

Nowadays, she stands on skis.

Labosky of Colorado Springs, who has Down syndrome, participates annually in the Adapted Water Ski Program, part of the city's Therapeutic Recreation Program. The program provides youths and adults with physical and developmental disabilities a chance to learn about and experience recreational activities.

This summer, the water ski program celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Marty Unruh, left, takes part in the 20th anniversary of the Adapted Water Ski Program at Prospect Lake on Wednesday July 12, 2017. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette). 

The water lessons started after TRP researched the idea in Denver and Boulder, trained volunteers, and purchased equipment.

During most years, the lessons take place at Prospect Lake at Memorial Park. The program took a hiatus in 2003 and moved to Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg in 2004-05 while the city made repairs to the 31-acre lake after half its water leaked through cracks and evaporated.

The lessons returned to Prospect Lake in 2006.

Over the years, the program expanded to include water ski times in the morning and tubing rides in the afternoon, serving 20 participants typically every Wednesday in July.

The lessons, which each have a 20-person capacity, end Aug. 2.

Program coordinator Felicia Barnhart said the lessons wouldn't be possible without the help of volunteers, who have donated their time, water skiing experience, equipment and boats to use on Prospect Lake. "Basically, we try to get them (the participants) to do something that typical people can but to show that people with disabilities can do just as much as anyone else," she said.

Asked about her favorite part about water skiing, Jodi Labosky's answer was simple: "I'm standing up the whole time."

For the first few years, Jodi used "sit skis" before she felt comfortable on regular water skis. Jodi has been taking water skiing lessons for the past 18 years.

Her mom, Gail, believes the program teaches participants about being fearless.

"Her self-esteem has grown like you wouldn't believe," she said of her 38-year-old daughter. "She believes in herself. She tries anything. She is not afraid to try anything. And she feels like she's more a part of the entire community."

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