Anticipation was running high Friday morning on the dock at Sonny’s Marina as about three dozen adults with developmental disabilities climbed aboard a convoy of pontoon barges lined up for the East Tennessee Mogul Mashers ski club’s annual “Captain for a Day” boat excursions with the Dawn of Hope.
“We take them out for about two hours and let them all drive,” club president Fred Rowland said, hinting at the fun that lay ahead. “We go out in the middle and let them go around in circles. ... Some of them like to zig zag. Depending on whose driving, zig zags or circles.”
“We’ve been doing it, all and all, about 12 years. ... They really get excited about it and we enjoy it.”
Among the first to load up, Maureen Paduch was happy to be riding but insisted she would not drive. “No,” she said at the prospect, with determination, a smile and a nervous giggle. Jonathan Barrett, on the other hand, appeared more than ready to take the wheel, stopping only long enough to slip on a life vest as he anxiously he made his way toward the boats. Smiling broadly, Barrett raised his hand to his ear and said, “That big,” when ask for his thoughts on the opportunity.
“They love this,” said Lisa Stelick, with the Dawn of Hope’s Public Relations and Development office. “Getting out on the lake, especially when it’s hot, just like everybody else, they look forward to it.”
About 40 of Dawn of Hope’s 220 developmental, vocational and residential service recipients took part in Friday’s outing. Stelick said they take turns year by year to give everyone a taste of the Mogul Mashers’ hospitality. Their morning out on the water was followed by a barbecue lunch at the lakeside homes of club members Allen Stevens and Wayne Bays. The Mogul Mashers would gather afterward at the Run-about Cafe at Sonny’s to thank the marina for allowing them the use their dock and parking area. And to celebrate the day, there was a Mogul Mashers party with a band Friday evening.
What’s a Mogul? “They’re the little bumps you see on a ski slope ... but we don’t mash them. We go over them,” Rowland said, explaining that the Mogul Mashers is a snow skiing club and Dawn of Hope is just one of several nonprofit service organizations they enjoy working with. Special Olympics skiing events held each winter in several of North Carolina’s resort communities is another. Their membership extends into Southwest Virginia. Their web site is www.etmm.net, and they can also be found on Facebook.
As for their Captain for a Day boat rides, Rowland said, “We love doing it. We look forward to it as much as they do. ... It’s kind of humbling. It makes you appreciate what you’ve got.”