We usually devote our blog to our own adventures. But every now and then someone comes along that you want to introduce to those who read about your adventures just because their adventures are so enthralling.
When I received the email about Unstoppable Tracy from a friend of mine I had no idea what she was talking about. I opened, and read, and went to the information she pointed me towards and discovered who Tracy is and why she’s called “unstoppable’.
And now I want to help Tracy as she reaches to achieve her latest goal. But how?
I write. So I decided to write, to share her story and ask anyone who can to find their own way to help.
She is the definition of ‘unstoppable’. Tracy was born without complete limbs – but that hasn’t stopped her from taking on all kinds of challenges with resourcefulness and creativity. That includes her latest quest, to be a Paralympic sailor in Rio in 2016. This even though she was born without complete limbs, even though both her legs end above the knee, one arm above the elbow, and on her right hand she has only one finger!
Her sailing began when Catherine Smart, her recreational therapist at the Hugh MacMillan Rehabilitation Centre (now Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab) introduced her to the Independence Afloat Sailing Program. It was the beginning of a transformation – from shy child to determined, creative and passionate sailor, and teacher, and motivator. That spirit of determination and creativity is the basis of her approach to life. And fun. Let’s not forget fun.
That first summer she kept falling out of the boat she was learning to sail. Finding and keeping her balance was difficult at first. Balance found, she spent her summers working her way steadily and determinedly through the CYA CANSail program; then, with a bronze level 4, she became a Sailing Instructor. Along the way she fell passionately in love with racing sailboats.
The strength of that passion has given her the drive to work toward becoming a paralympic sailor, with all the dedication, sacrifice and hard work that entails.
And she has been working hard. She has been competing in world cup regattas across North America. She has been training hard, splitting her training time between Toronto (where she sails out of the National Yacht Club), Ottawa (at the Nepean Yacht Club, with Ontario paralympic coach Peter Wood) and Miami, Florida. In Florida she has been working with Olympic Gold Medalist Magnus Liljedahl (winner with Mark Reynolds of the gold medal in the Star Class at the 2000 Summer Olympics) as part of Team Paradise, a non-profit organization helping Paralympic sailors achieve their dreams.
All her work is paying off in steadily improving results. The next step is to get her own boat, her own SKUD 18. It is a boat designed for two sailors, very fast and very technical, the boat chosen to be used in the double-handed class at the Paralympics. To be successful you have to put in the time to learn all about sail trim, tactics and strategy and put all you learn to use.
Tracy is putting in the time and showing the dedication and perseverance needed to be successful. It’s time for her to take the next step in her development. Right now she’s training in the 2.4mR; the boat that will take her to the next level, the boat best suited for her, is the SKUD 18.
But to sail one she needs to buy one. And for that she needs money. Specifically, $40,000 for her own boat modified to meet her own unique needs. The SKUD18 is more expensive but much better suited to her level of physical ability than the 2.4mR she originally sought funding for.
Buying the boat she needs. That’s where you could help. With money, with connections, with fundraising.
If you doubt her drive and her ability to make the best out of all kinds of situations there are a few more things you should know about Tracy. She’s worked hard to develop the skills she needs to meet her goals: she studied for and received her recreational diploma from Centennial College, a degree in Recreational Therapy from Brock University, a Teaching Certificate from Queen’s University and a Master in Business Administration from U of T’s Rotman School of Business.
And what has she done with all she’s learned? She has climbed mountains in Nepal and won a bronze as a Parasport alpine skier. She has taught primary school children in Mexico, Jamaica, Uganda and Nepal. She has spent time on tall ships, in charge of the educational program of Operation Raleigh, a British-based project designed to expose young people to adventure, scientific exploration and community service on tall ship voyages around the world. She has worked as an Organizational Development Facilitator for Air Canada and Shoppers Drugmart. Her laughter-filled talks inspire others to be the best they can be.
And she gives back to organizations that have given to her: she volunteers at the club where she originally learned to sail, the Queens Quay Disabled Sailing School, and for the Team Paradise Paralympic Sports Club she trains with in Florida.
And now she is working to help Parapan Am athletes coming here to Toronto as Manager of Planning and Integration.
We’d like to help her. Wouldn’t you?
We know she will appreciate every bit of help offered, small or large.