A blue-sky morning.
A steady, gentle breeze out of the east.
It’s a beautiful day for sailing.
Eight-year-old Emma’s mom and dad wheel her down the floating dock at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center to the new experience that awaits her.
“She’s never been on a sailboat before!” says her mom, Paulo.
Emma was born with a metabolic disorder that prevents her from being able to walk on her own.
Just now, as she’s lifted onto the 18-foot keel boat, she looks a little uncertain.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital therapist Michelle Schultz, P.T., D.P.T. reaches out to receive Emma, taking the full weight of her in her arms. With some encouraging words, she secures the child into the special adaptive seat onboard the boat.
“OK, are you good? You’ve got this, Emma!”
Schultz is no stranger to helping children who need extra care. Most days, you’ll find her in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Child Development and Rehabilitation Center along with her highly skilled colleagues, encouraging and teaching kids to push past — or work around — the physical and developmental challenges dictated by their diagnoses. To help them get the most out of life.
But this day is special. This is about Landon’s legacy.
Last June, Schultz gave birth to beautiful twin boys, Logan and Landon. After a premature delivery, Logan would push through, but Landon died at 3 days old.
How to best remember her son?
Schultz decided to organize a special day that would benefit other children.
Friends, family and others pitched in funds to accommodate a free inclusive adaptive sailing event for children with special medical needs and their families — kids for whom activities like this aren’t that easy to come by.
“We choose to cherish Landon’s memory by supporting the children continuing their fight,” Schultz says, “to bring them the opportunity for fun, activity and play regardless of their disability.”
The response was vigorous.
More than 30 grateful families participated, with five sailboats going out on the half hour throughout the morning. For those waiting their turn, a glorious day in the nearby park — with adaptive bike rides, face painting, food and fun.
But something like this doesn’t happen without a lot of help from people who know what they’re doing. When Schultz put out the call, the therapists she works with every day at Johns Hopkins All Children’s did not hesitate to volunteer their time.
It has been said that character is revealed by what a person does when no one is looking.
On this sunny Sunday, when others were enjoying some time off, about a dozen physical and occupational therapists set aside personal plans to do what they do best — to help elevate the life experience of some very deserving kids.
“I’m so fortunate to work with people who all share the same passion and mission,” Schultz says.
The reward, so often, is in the response …
To see kids like Emma open up and embrace a new adventure.
Just now, Emma’s sailboat is moving out into the sparkling, open water beyond Demens Landing, toward the new St. Petersburg pier.
The boat is picking up speed and there’s a slight chop in the water.
Emma gazes up in wonder at the giant sail that has caught the wind …
An enormous grin slowly breaks out across her face.
Now, she gets it.
This is the life.
This is sailing.