Wheelchair is no barrier for local man's pursuit of water

It was on Goshorn Lake, the lake of his youth, that idea of taking to the water, in spite of his wheelchair, first took hold of Randy Smit, a Holland area Pastor.  On a pleasant summer evening, Randy observed a lone kayaker enjoying the water.

“To watch him restful... no paddling, no effort, just floating, was a gift. Some taste of his peace was my own in those moments. And that taste, which left longing and hunger in its wake, drew me out of my restless pestering... to conceive of something new, to explore the possibilities,” said Smit.

Smit shared his longing with a Hope College Professor of Engineering and soon Smit was connected to three eager senior engineering students in search of a term project. The students Matt Folkert, Dave Schroeder, and Dan Irvin then contacted Todd Whiteman at Disability Network/ Lakeshore (DN/L), an organization committed to creating and raising awareness around opportunities for people with disabilities.

DN/L was eager to join the project, not only to offer technical assistance, but to help promote efforts of inclusion in recreational activities.

“We work with individuals every day on independent living, whether that is finding employment, housing or filling out paperwork,” said Whiteman. “However, we often forget that people with disabilities want to participate and do participate in recreational activities. Any way that we can help promote and provide those opportunities fulfills our mission.”

Smit captures the total essence of this project this way “yes, this is about recreation and independence and community and removing boundaries and getting out there on the water to live fully. It's a mechanical project with nuts and bolts and measurements and hundreds of carefully regarded specifics of metal and wiring and time and craftsmanship. It is also a spiritual project, born of dreams and hopes and longing.”

On March 31, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. at Saugatuck Brewing Company friends, family, and community members will gather as the concept of the “flow boat”, the vessel to make Smit’s vision a reality, is unveiled. Engineers will share their concept, Smit will discuss all aspects of the project and all will celebrate the work that lies before an early June launch at Goshorn Lake.