GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The scuba masks were on and the tanks were full — kids and adults with disabilities spent their Saturday learning how to scuba dive in Grand Rapids, learning new skills and making lifetime memories in the process.
After a year off because of the pandemic, Mary Free Bed’s Adaptive Scuba Diving Clinic returned for its 10th year at East Grand Rapids High School.
“This is fun," said Nash Devers, a 13-year-old who participated for the first time.
People of all ages with disabilities get the chance to throw on the scuba gear and dive under the water.
Some are seasoned vets, coming back year after year. Others, like Nash, are new, but they love the different experience.
“Trust me, it is completely different from swimming," Nash told FOX 17. "You got all this equipment, and you gotta do this with your nose, but once you get used to it, you could super easily do it."
Organizers set up items across the bottom of the pool for participants to play with, such as underwater torpedoes, hula hoops, frisbees and a treasure chest.
“Have you gotten a chance to get anything out of there yet?” FOX 17 asked Nash.
“Yeah," he responded. "You’re going to have to figure it out on your own, though, if you want some.”
The tangible toys are a nice touch, with participants getting some help from scuba-certified dive buddies with Adaptive Diving Unlimited and Capital City Scuba. However, this program is about much more than that.
It’s about learning to relax, trying new things and overcoming your fears.
“Sometimes they’re nervous; they’re not sure they can do it," said Christy Van Haver, sports coordinator for Mary Free Bed. "They’re afraid that, ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’ They all come out with huge smiles. ‘I did it! This was really awesome.’ They’re back the next year if they don’t sign up for scuba lessons themselves.”
And even volunteers agree the experiences outside the pool are just as valuable as the ones inside of it.
Rob Lyczynski, one of the dive buddies from Adaptive Diving Unlimited, said, “The relationships you build with people through the relationships, the clients, the other people you work with... It’s just great all around to see the joy it brings to other people.”
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