By Mike Dougherty
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The nation’s largest regatta for people with disabilities hit the Schuylkill River Saturday.
All of the rowers have overcome tremendous challenges to compete, including Maddie Jones of Villanova, who has cerebral palsy. At 15, she is one of the youngest on the water.
“Oh I love it! I’m a really competitive person,” Jones said. “I love when race day comes.”
She’s gained strength since she began training and has discovered new muscles in her body.
“Now that it’s over, I want to row in the Head of the Schuylkill, so that’s what I’ll be training for in September.”
And now she wants to join her high school crew team.
“When you row at night, there’s a really pretty sunset on the water.”
Mark Baiada with Bayada Home Health has been the title sponsor since the beginning.
“Well it feels good, especially since I get to know them.” said Baiada. “Now I see somebody every year and they’re progressing a little bit. It keeps me so excited, I’ve been back for 33 years.”
Baiada says events like this are important for the physical and emotional well-being of the competitors and it helps them push past perceived limits.
“After my accident, I was going to be the guy living on the couch,” rower and Philadelphia native Scott Brown said. He lost his leg in a car wreck at age 20. A series of bad decisions caught up with him. “I was going to be the guy who drank beer and ate percocet,” he said. “That was going to be my life.”
Then his physical therapist suggested rowing.
“It unlocked, for me, a competitive athlete. But also it helped me clarify my life. There needs to be programs like this for people with disabilities to help make that adjustment.”
Today, Brown lives in Florida and is a gold medalist who competes on the US Paralympic team.
Baiada says this is always a special event in Philadelphia.
“And it’s never rained on the Bayada Regatta — never rained in 33 years.”
It’s a streak so powerful he says an employee scheduled her wedding for this weekend with full confidence the sun would shine.