USCG Auxiliarists help the disabled in South Florida

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Anthony Furguiele, 83, of Boca Raton, Fla., gets a push from his daughter, Andrea Locegato, and an escort from Auxiliarist Jerome Maurice of Flotilla 51 (The Palm Beaches, Fla.), after watching the children enjoy their rides at the Boating & Beach Bash in Boca Raton on March 22. Auxiliary photo by Art Slepian.

Anthony Furguiele, 83, of Boca Raton, Fla., gets a push from his daughter, Andrea Locegato, and an escort from Auxiliarist Jerome Maurice, after watching the children enjoy their rides at the Boating & Beach Bash in Boca Raton on March 22. USCG Auxiliary photo by Art Slepian.

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Recreational boating should be an activity that everyone can enjoy. But there are times when obstacles get in the way of a person’s chance to enjoy some time afloat.

One of those obstacles can be a physical limitation caused by illness, or a disabling wound suffered in combat, that leaves a person dependent on crutches or a wheelchair and the help of a caregiver. Fortunately, we have the Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to help the disabled enjoy a day on the water.

By Art Slepian, Branch Chief, Atlantic Area East News, Public Affairs Directorate

On March 22, the opportunity for dozens of disabled persons and their caregivers to board a pleasure craft for a 30-minute ride along South Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway was made possible by the Boating & Beach Bash for People With Disabilities.

Auxiliarists from South Florida kept the shores and waterways safe.  They put life jackets on visitors and guided them along the dock and aboard the boats. Ramps enabled those in wheelchairs to board the vessels. In addition, three Auxiliarists on personal watercraft followed the boats to respond to any emergencies.

“Our volunteers are extraordinary,” said event founder and director Jay Van Vechen. “They bring a level of dedication, support and compassion to this event that I’ve never seen anywhere else.” He also noted “that we’re annually hosting more and more veterans with disabilities.”

The Boating & Beach Bash began in 2009. This year’s event, sponsored by Unicorn Children’s Foundation, Boca Raton, attracted approximately 6,000 visitors and 500 volunteers. Unicorn says it “is an international non-profit organization dedicated to children and young adults with developmental, communication, and learning disorders through education, awareness, and research so that they have every opportunity to lead productive and fulfilling lives.”

Gunner Hodges, 12, of Boynton Beach, Fla., disembarks after his boat ride along the Intracoastal Waterway during the Boating & Beach Bash in Boca Raton, Fla., on March 22. Giving an assist is Gunner’s mother, Aileen Hodges, while family friend Sara Munoz looks on. Auxiliary photo by Art Slepian.

Gunner Hodges, 12, of Boynton Beach, Fla., disembarks after his boat ride along the Intracoastal Waterway during the Boating & Beach Bash in Boca Raton, Fla., on March 22. Giving an assist is Gunner’s mother, Aileen Hodges, while family friend Sara Munoz looks on. USCG Auxiliary photo by Art Slepian.

Gunner Hodges, 12, of Boynton Beach, Fla., who needed a ramp to board a boat, enjoyed his time on the water. “This is really fun for the kids, and he loves boats,” said Gunner’s mother, Aileen Hodges.

The Bash has grown to become the largest, free, fun-day in America for children, adults and Purple Heart recipients with physical and/or intellectual challenges, and their caregivers, according to organizers. It is held in the tropical setting of Spanish River Park, Boca Raton.

Many boats were donated by members of Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club in Boca Raton. The Bash is organized and run by community volunteers and is funded through private donations and sponsorship.

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Comments


  1. Chrissy Andersen says:

    This is so neat that you take time to do this. Proud to be a fellow member of the Auxiliary (095-41-11). Thank you for your service. Semper Paratus!


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