A special program is helping some young New Yorkers with physical disabilities trade in their crutches, wheel chairs and braces for oars out on the water. NY1's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
Stroke after stroke, a group of physically disabled rowers in Queens are overcoming the odds and moving beyond their own expectations.
"It gives you a lot of confidence that you can do anything you put your mind to really," says rower Maria Saldarriaga.
The adaptive rowing program is a new venture being forged by the Initiative for Women with Disabilities Elly & Steve Hammerman Health and Wellness Center of NYU's Hospital for Joint Diseases in partnership with Row New York.
The program first gets them started on land using specially equipped rowing machines. They then hit the water, where large seats made for rowers with special needs and mobility challenges keep them strapped in safely. High school girls from Row New York's competitive team coach them along the water, using the same kind of rowing techniques that they use with everyone else, just simply adapting them to all of their different levels of ability.
"This is definitely breaking new ground. There's only a few adaptive rowing program in the whole country. It's kind of a perfect sport for adaptation because once you are on the water you are exactly like everyone else in terms of a level playing field," says Row New York Director of Programs Previn Chandraratna.
"The goal is really to empower these young girls that they can step out of themselves, that they can have an opportunity to become young women and the women that they can be. It gives them an opportunity to experience life on an equal basis," says Initiative for Women with Disabilities Director Judith Goldberg.
One of the participants, 19-year-old Corinne Petrigno, was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down.
"It is amazing that they came up with this so we can do this on our own and have the experience so we can be like the other girls," says Petrigno.
Because her bones can break easily due to brittle bones disease, 26-year-old Jessica De La Rosa needs the low impact exercise one can get from rowing and was thrilled to be the pace setter on one of her first turns in the boat.
"It was really cool. This was my first time ever doing anything like that so for them to say to go to the front of the boat. It was really nice, it was fun," says De La Rosa.
Form more information on the Initiative for Women with Disabilities program, visit http://iwd.med.nyu.edu/.