Rockaway Peninsula, population 100,000, is perhaps one of New York City’s best-kept secrets. It is tucked away in a beachside corner of Queens that overlooks the city skyline. Rockaway’s name is derived from the Indian ‘Reckouwacky,’ a tribe of the Canarsies on Rockaway Neck. It means “Place of Our Own People.”
From July 7–10, 2005 Rockaway residents realized the potential of their namesake and opened their homes for 23 wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The soldiers stayed with host families for the weekend.
In this event, hosted by Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA) and called the Adaptive Water Sports Festival, the soldiers were taught to water ski by over 35 current and retired New York City firefighters, as well as several dozen community volunteers. Also on hand was Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., who donated four JET SKI® watercraft for use by participants and their families.
After a one-day training program, all volunteers were ready to coach disabled participants to water ski and to ride the JET SKI watercraft. They were also shown how to use the JET SKI watercrafts as safety boats to assist the water skiers in case of emergency.
By the end of the event, with no emergencies to speak of, all 23 soldiers were tanned, relaxed, and had learned how to water ski.
The JET SKI watercrafts were in constant use over the three days of the Adaptive Water Sports Festival. The clocks on the four boats, three 2005 STX™-15F and one 2005 STX-12F, showed a total of over 45 hours of operation.
By the end of the event, Rockaway proved it to be a true place of the people, taking in each soldier and volunteer as one of their own.