JACKSON, Miss.—Scott Therell loved to kneeboard before he lost the use of his legs in a 1995 car crash. When he left the hospital he vowed he’d find a way to water ski once again.
“I didn’t know what kind of water sports were available for the disabled,” said Therell of Chunky. “I had tried to kneeboard, but it was tough without the use of legs.”
Therell, 25, hasn’t let his disability slow him down. Today, he is completely independent and lives by himself. He cooks, cleans, hunts, fishes and hopes to one day race a dirt track car that he plans to build. But he never gave up his desire to ski again.
Then one day he saw Bill Bowness on ESPN.
“He was disabled and winning gold medals for water skiing,” said Therell. “I couldn’t believe it. But I knew that if he could do that, I could ski too.”
Bowness, like most disabled skiers, was skiing on a kan ski—a specially designed ski with a cage that allows a disabled person to sit while holding the toe rope.
Shortly after that program aired, Therell was introduced to Bowness by Ginny Boydston, the director of therapeutic recreation at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. As it turned out, Bowness lives in Brandon during the summers and works with other disabled skiers.
“It was wild to meet him,” Therell recalled. “He’s so independent and strong and knows so much about water skiing. You can’t help but learn from him.”
Since 1989, Methodist Rehab has offered water ski clinics for those with disabilities, Boydston said. For the past seven years, Bowness and his wife, Denise, have been a part of those workshops.
“I’ve always been sort of a coach and trainer,” Bowness said, talking from the lake he specifically built for disabled skiers. “And it’s a pleasure to work with someone like Scott who is so eager and listens to your suggestions and works with you to find the best system for them.”
A multi-champion and gold medallist in disabled water and snow skiing, Bowness will soon go back to California to prepare for snow skiing season and to hold workshops to teach disabled snow-skiers.
Boydston said she always knew that water skiing would be an important part of Methodist Rehab’s therapeutic recreation program. “So many people have skied before their injury and everyone wants to be able to be involved in water sports. It’s easy and fun and there’s water and sun. Everybody enjoys it,” she said.
Having a world-class disabled skier come in and help makes it even more rewarding.
“When Bill came, the whole program just blossomed, said Boydston. “He knows exactly what disabled skiers need and he knows the best techniques to teach them and his lake is absolutely perfect for beginners. Having him here is wonderful.”
Today, Methodist Rehab boasts the oldest therapeutic recreation program in Mississippi and has helped countless people with disabilities learn to lead active and healthy lives.
The water skiing program has grown over the years attracting more and more skiers.
Tammy Voynik, an attorney who was injured in a 1986 car crash, began skiing with Methodist Rehab last year. She had done it before her injury, but still wasn’t prepared for sitting down and skiing. “It was pretty cool,” she said. “I was surprised at how easy it was. You just get up and hang on and have fun.”
Voynik said having Bowness and Boydston as instructors totally allayed any fears she had of being disabled and in the water. She has since become involved in Methodist Rehab’s scuba diving program for the disabled.
“Without the therapeutic recreation program at Methodist Rehab, I wouldn’t know how to get the equipment I need or where to start learning how to do these sports on my own, but now my husband and I can go to Florida and go skiing or scuba diving together. It is great to have the opportunity to be active and involved in sports,” Voynik said.
“This was the highlight of my summer.”