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Patients undergoing rehab or living with disability regain independence through adaptive water sports

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SMITHVILLE, Mo. -- Recovering from a spinal cord injury or the loss of a limb is grueling, hard work.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City also has a way to help patients have fun, and find freedom with its annual Day At The Lake event.

The event allows people with physical limitations to kayak, water ski, and canoe with the help of professionally trained staff and volunteers.

“It`s the one day of the year you get out on the water and not worry about being paralyzed, you`re just an actual human being,” said Elainia Rogers, who has been in a wheelchair since a bad car accident more than two decades ago.

She's participated at the annual day at the lake event for about as long.

“This is the one day I look forward to,” Rogers said.

Friday was the 22nd annual Day at the Lake, at Crows Creek Landing at Smithville Lake. The event aims to create opportunities for hundreds of individuals with disabilities in the community to experience activities on the water.

“Individuals with spinal cord injury, spinal cord disease, and limb loss, are able to get out of their chairs and onto the water for kind of a day of freedom,” said Sarah Murphy, the Communications and Volunteer Coordinator at Rehab Institute of Kansas City.

Murphy says the volunteers make all the difference.

“If we have to catch somebody on the water, if they fall off their ski, the volunteers out there on the jet skis know the proper technique for that as well,” added Murphy.

The volunteers say it's extremely rewarding.

“When you actually see the smile and the enjoyment they`re getting from that, that`s really where it comes from,” said one volunteer, Hunter Davis.

“It makes me feel really safe, because I know if I fall off they`re right there to get me,” Nicole McConnell said.

McConnell was in a car crash when she was 16 that left her paralyzed.

This event has been one of her favorite for a decade.

“It gives me a chance to do something that I normally don`t have the opportunity to do,” says McConnell, “It makes me feel independent on top of the lake.”

“It`s just a matter of freedom, getting out of the wheelchair, feeling like you`re an able body,” added Rogers.

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