Being one of the few sailing programs in the nation that can lay claim to once having an Olympic gold medalist on staff, the Piers Park Sailing Center (PPSC) in East Boston will be getting help from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) this coming year.
The U.S. Paralympics, a division of the USOC, announced that PPSC would be one of 97 organizations selected to receive the 2012 Olympic Opportunity Fund.
The Olympic Opportunity Fund is provided through a partnership between the USOC and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Grants are provided to USOC partner organizations to increase the number and quality of opportunities for physically and visually impaired veterans to participate in physical activity within their home communities and in more advanced Paralympic sport programs.
In 2005, PPSC was granted funding from the Lead to Opportunities for Youth with Disabilities initiative to design and develop youth sailing programs that specifically include young people with disabilities. The sailing center used this support to expand the number of children with disabilities served; expand the depth of contact between trained instructors and children with disabilities; include children with disabilities in the skill and leadership development benefits offered in sailing center programs; establish collaborations with disability organizations; and provide professional development for all staff.
The sailing center became one of the first sailing programs in the nation to be handicapped accessible for sailors with disabilities.
Piers Park Sailing Center Executive Director Bobby Martin said the partnership with the USOC will have a dramatic impact on PPSC’s capacity to provide transformative programming to Veterans of the Armed Forces.
“The grant funds will go towards providing empowering sailing lessons and training in Boston Harbor and the Boston Harbor Islands,” said Martin.
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said the funding is helping to meet the need for Paralympic and adaptive sport programming for disabled veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces in communities across the country.
“At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, there were 20 veterans and service members on the U.S. team who accounted for a total of 13 U.S. medals,” said Blackmum. “We hope to build on that success at the elite level as well as continue to grow the number of veterans participating in Paralympic and adaptive sport at the grassroots level moving forward.”
Chris Nowak, national director of the Veterans Affairs Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events said the VA is pleased to be partnering again with the USOC to provide funding for PPSC programs.
“This support is crucial to the thousands of veteran athletes who are participating and improving their lives along the way,” said Nowak.
In 2008, former PPSC Adaptive Sailing Program Director Maureen McKinnon-Tucker and her U.S. Paralympic Sailing teammate, Nick Scandone, took gold in the SKUD-18 Sailing event during day seven of the Paralympic Summer Games in Beijing.
It was the first gold medal win for the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team and McKinnon-Tucker will go down in the history books as the first ever woman to not only make the team but the first woman to win gold in the Paralympic Sailing Regatta.
McKinnon-Tucker received a hero’s welcome in her hometown of Marblehead after her win. There, the town held a parade in honor of the gold medalist.
Then that October PPSC held a medal celebration at the Hyatt Hotel at Logan and distinguished guests stopped by to congratulate McKinnon-Tucker on her achievement. McKinnon-Tucker also participate in the Columbus Day Parade that same year and rode in a convertible with her Gold Medal proudly displayed around her neck.
McKinnon-Tucker and Scandone, disabled by Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), won the U.S. Trials to represent the U.S. in the 2008 Paralympic Games.
“I set a goal in 2002 that I would represent my country in the highest level of the sport – The Paralympic Games.” said Tucker of her accomplishment. “Our team finished 3rd in 2003, losing the U.S. Trials for Athens, Greece and I left heartbroken. I took time out for a second child and returned in 2006 to competition.”
Tucker had the honor of making the U.S. Disabled Sailing Team five times, but this is the first time she won the U.S. Trials with new teammate and skipper, Scandone.
Tucker was the first woman to make the U.S. team and will now the first woman in Paralympic Sailing to represent the USA and win a gold.
Sadly, her teammate Scandone died on January 2, 2009 from ALS complications.
A Piers Park Sailing Center sailboat out in Boston Harbor off of East Boston’s shore. PPSC will be getting help from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) this coming year to expand programming to disabled veterans.