By Kelsey Zuver, Achieve Tahoe Participant

I’ve always been a water lover. Both pre- and post- my car accident in 2013, being in the water is where I’m the most comfortable. I swim laps in a pool, but as a full-time wheelchair user with multiple chronic conditions limiting my mobility, there isn’t much else I can participate in independently… Which means I don’t do much else- I am what my family calls “obnoxiously independent!”

When I heard about Achieve Tahoe’s summer sports program earlier this year, I immediately put the registration date on my calendar. “Excited” is a drastic understatement of how I felt at the prospect of spending time doing water activities and sports that have been out of reach for a decade.

My partner and I arrived at Donner Lake having no idea of what to expect. When we found the Achieve Tahoe tent and crew getting set up, I was welcomed by Josephine and instantly knew this was going to be a fantastic day. She was incredibly knowledgeable about which information was most important. (Any physical limitations? Other potential challenges their team should know about? Etc.) After we’d talked through health stuff and identified which activities I wanted to try (All of them!), I sheepishly asked, “Why… Why are all these people here?”

I was talking about all the volunteers setting up boats, pulling out life jackets, and laying down giant tiles on the sand to make accessible walkways. They weren’t getting paid, so why were they spending a day at the lake doing… This?

Every person I spoke to told me how much they enjoy sharing these experiences with folks, especially those who would probably not get to have them otherwise. Almost everyone there was a volunteer just wanting to facilitate people having a great time. They sure did!

From kayaking to paddle boarding, from jet-skiing to tubing, the entire day was one long smile. Not just MY smile, either- every participant and every volunteer had huge grins on their faces while we played on the water together!

Each time I switched from one activity to another, the first thing asked was always, “How would you like to do this?” A small swarm of volunteers helped coordinate how to make the transitions safely, but it was always under my direction and direct consent. As a person who often loses autonomy because of my disability, having my opinion respected as the expert one (since it’s, ya know, MY body) is both crucial and unfortunately rare. The Achieve Tahoe team blew me away with their communication and respect.

Our day on the lake was incredible, and sparked a desire to see what other sports I can try out that I haven’t participated in since my injury. This weekend we’re doing Archery and Rock Climbing with Achieve Tahoe, and we’re already planning a trip to Oregon to do accessible white water rafting next summer!

Thank you to everyone supporting Achieve Tahoe’s mission – you all made my world a whole lot more adventurous.

Thank you Kelsey for sharing your experience with the Achieve Tahoe community, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!