Park City Sailing sets a course for therapy
Park City Sailing sets a course for therapeutic and adaptive waters
Park City Sailing Association is making waves in the wellness world.
The nonprofit, formed in 2008, received the Robie Pierce Award for Outstanding Adaptive Programing 2017 from the U.S. Sailing Association.
The award was named after Pierce, who passed away in 2017 from complications of multiple sclerosis. He was a pioneer in the sailing community because of his MS.
“The award was given to us during U.S. Sailing’s Leadership Conference in Florida,” said Ken Block, vice president of Park City Sailing. “That was pretty neat because we started as a small organization that is located five miles east of nowhere.”
This is the third time in 10 years that Park City Sailing Association has received a national award, Block said.
The others, also given by U.S. Sailing, were the 2010 Director of a New Program Award that was given to president Buster Pike, and the Leadership Award in 2009 that went to racing coach Geoff Hurwitch, Block said.
With those awards under its belt, Park City Sailing continues to set course on developing its adaptive-therapeutic program, which started last year through a partnership with Dr. William Marchand, clinical director of whole health at the George E. Wahlen Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City and professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Utah.
“He called us about staring a therapeutic sailing program for vets who were injured and vets who were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and vets who had both,” Block said. “Dr. Marchand thought the boat would be a good place to do this, and we at Park City Sailing already knew the boat is a good place to do this.”
The program ran from May to September last year.
“We began taking veterans out, but not in the traditional recreational therapy way, under Dr. Marchand’s guidance,” Block said. “The program wasn’t just about taking the vets out on the water, it utilized mindfulness and sailing as a therapeutic process.”
The program also included the skills of board members Karl Paulsen and Nicole Paradiso, who supported the shore-side mindfulness training that took place before the sailing, Block said.
At the conclusion of the program, Block, Marchand, and PC Sailing’s adult programs director Scott VerMerri wrote a paper, “A Retrospective Pilot Study of Therapeutic Sailing for Veterans with PTSD, Addictive and Other Disorders,” which they submitted to the Journal of Complimentary Therapies on Clinical Practice. At this time, Block said he was awaiting word on the paper’s status.
In the meantime, Park City Sailing Association will continue the program throughout this summer.
“We will review the data, and we want to present our findings at the U.S. Sailing Leadership Symposium and Conference in the winter of 2019,” Block said.
The overall goal is to take the program to other Veterans Affairs facilities.
There are more than 258 major VA facilities in the country, according to the Veterans Health Administration.
“The percentage of those facilities that are close to a body of water as small as our Jordanelle tells me there are incredible opportunities to do more,” Block said.
By that, Block means to work with populations that have been diagnosed with other ailments.
“Sailing can be socially impactful, and while a number of clubs have developed excellent adaptive programs for sailors with physical and mental challenges, the field of addiction recovery is new to sailing,” he said.
More than 40 people die every day from opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.
Block said adaptive sailing can be a complicated proposition.
“It requires us to adapt boats to the myriad of physical and mental challenges,” Block explained. “Some participants have no core strength, so we have to build seats that will support them. And we need people with us who are skilled in working with those that need help.”
During therapeutic sailing, Block works hand in hand with recreational therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
“You also need a skipper who is skilled in how well they can run a boat, and also who can communicate with the diverse population that we serve,” he said. “Sometimes you are sailing with a person who is only two days in with fighting an addiction. So they aren’t having a good day.”
Block believes he couldn’t have created this type and caliber of program in any other community.
“Although the dynamic of Park City is changing, there are organizations like the National Ability Center and other people who are really receptive of what we do,” he said.The National Ability Center is a Park City-based nonprofit that provides recreational activities for all abilities.
“They introduced us to several addiction-recovery programs and other therapeutic sailing opportunities,” Block said. “Now, Park City Sailing is forging, in lock-step with them, other programs that we will bring to the Park City sailing community.”
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