On a misty Tuesday morning, Team Toad made our way down to the Santa Barbara Harbor to hit the high seas with the Canoemobile! As part of our longtime social mission to provide opportunities for adults with disabilities, we gave a grant to the National Park Foundation earlier this spring to get 1,000 adults with disabilities into national parks in 2016. The Canoemobile, operated by the skillful team from Wilderness Inquiry, has been touring the country to get folks into 24ft Voyageur canoes to paddle through our national waterways. We were lucky enough to have the Canoemobile come through our hometown and take us and our friends from Alpha Resource Center out onto the water for two unforgettable days. Alpha is a local organization committed to empowering individuals, supporting families and building a community that values the contribution of all people, regardless of ability.
Morning and afternoon fleets of Voyageur canoes lit out for the open ocean over the course of two days as Toads, W.I. crew and about 50 Alpha clients mingled with harbor seals, paddled with sea lions and waved at tourists along the Pacific coast. For many Alpha clients (and even a few Toads), it was their first time in a canoe. Nerves gave way to giggles as our canoes left the dock and sea salt from wayward paddles hit our faces.
Paddling across the ocean together, we pointed at birds and laughed at the waves, smiled as the sun peeked through the clouds, and sat mesmerized while pelicans dove head first into the water. Strangers just a few hours earlier, here we were, people from different backgrounds, upbringings and abilities, who had all come together for the exact same thing: joy.
It was an afternoon that will stick with us forever. Some Alpha clients found a new love of paddling (a few even came back for multiple paddle outs!) while others were simply proud of themselves for conquering their fears. In addition to making some quality new friends, we Toads were reminded that the work we do every day is so much more than making clothes, and that feels pretty darn good.
Thank you SO much to the folks at Wilderness Inquiry and the Canoemobile crew who are changing lives everyday, and thanks to the folks at Alpha Resource Center who came out to paddle with us (check out their video of the event below!). If you’d like to volunteer with the Canoemobile (and trust us, you definitely want to!), check when the Canoemobile will be in your area and click on the link to get involved. Bon voyage!