KC nonprofit helps people with disabilities enjoy day of water sports at Smithville Lake

SMITHVILLE, Mo. -- For 24 years, Ability KC has been helping people with life-changing injuries find joy in life through various activities. On Friday, the group hosted dozens of families at Smithville Lake.

"It was awesome. Is my first year out here and my first time on skis since my injury," John Teegarden said.

Teegarden has spent 14 years in a wheelchair after a complication from surgery, but the injury didn't keep him from testing out a wake board Friday.

"It's absolutely fantastic. You just get that piece of you back out, having fun, exercising. Because in a chair, exercise can be limited," he said.

Tony Knaus has been a part of Ability KC for four years and is still amazed at the impact just a few hours on the water can have.

"I see a lot of really happy people. Working with Ability KC and coming out here and seeing the difference, it`s definitely a different vibe than in the rehab hospital. People are smiling, loving life and having fun," Knaus said.

Earl Cotten said he's found ways to have fun despite a motorcycle accident that took his ability to walk three years ago.

"You don`t understand what it's like to go from ambulatory, bipedal to not so much," Cotten said. "I was an athlete. I really was. Collegiate racquetball, motorcycles, climbing poles for a local cable company, and I loved being in the water. I was a lifeguard at 14, so being able to get back in the water by myself and do things in the water with people, having fun, is empowering."

That's power Knaus and Teegarden believe helps them remember their injuries don't define them or control them.

"People realize there`s more to life than just their disability. I think often after a life-changing disability, people can only see what`s wrong, and events like this and through other sports and recreation, I think people quickly realize that there`s a lot more, a lot more positive things," Knaus said.

"It`s just living the life. It really is. You`re just doing this. We get around like everyone else does just in a different away. It`s just an adaptive way of doing things and still going out to have fun," Teegarden said.