Specializing solely in post-acute brain injury since 1982

Water Sports Festival Helps Boost Confidence for Paralympians

The Transitional Learning Center participates in the 22nd Annual Adaptive Water Sport Festival held at Moody Gardens.

Instead of typical skin, most of Kelly Allen's left leg is covered by an intricate design of blue, magenta and dark brown drawings.

The pattern is sometimes more noticeable than the prosthetic leg, necessary because Allen was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency. She is missing her left femur, patella, fibula, and a fully developed hip socket.


"The only way my left leg is attached to my body is through muscle and skin," the 20-year-old said. "I'm one of 30 people in the world who have this condition."

Regardless of her disability, Allen is starting a new career as a paralympian, recently competing at the 2012 International Canoe Federation Sprint World Cup in Poland, where she placed fourth in the kayaking.

Over 200 participants

Allen displayed her skills again Saturday at the 22nd annual Adaptive Water Sports Festival at Moody Gardens in Galveston. Other paralympians in attendance included Dylan Brown, a former U.S. Marine who was seriously injured in the field in Afghanistan, and members of Team River Runner Texas, a non-profit organization that assists with the recovery of wounded military members.

About 90 volunteers were on hand to help more than 200 participants and their families enjoy kayaking, water skiing and sailing with specialized equipment.

'I can do anything'

Water skiing was the busiest throughout the day since many participants in wheelchairs were able to sit in a unique ski designed with a seat on top of it. A volunteer could ski beside them and held on to the side of the seat, like a spotter.

Third-time attendee Melissa Boyle, who has spina bifida, said she was initially afraid to go in the water. But learning to water ski taught her she could take part in other sports.

"I've learned to ride motorcycles, fish, kayak, sail," Boyle said. "I can do anything anyone else is doing; I just have to do it differently."

Maria Miller, volunteer coordinator at Moody Gardens, said participants show the benefits of adaptive water sports.

"A few years ago we had people who were afraid to kayak or water ski," Miller said. "It's amazing to see a newfound confidence and sense of self."

Confidence is exactly what Allen hopes people will see instead of her prosthetic leg or disability.

"I see myself as a peer mentor," Allen said. "I have a disability and so do they, but we can still go out and kayak together." 

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