On Wednesday at noon, a small crowd gathered beneath the lifeguard stand on Pay Beach in Oak Bluffs to welcome the donation of five floating beach wheelchairs to the Island community. One chair will remain in Oak Bluffs, another will be used in Vineyard Haven, and the remaining three will go to Edgartown. With further demand and donations, we could very well see more of these chairs in the near future. These wheelchairs have been donated by Small Miracles in Life Exist, more commonly known as SMILE Mass.
The Sudbury-based nonprofit began in 2009, with Lotte Diomede and Susan Brown’s mission to “help families raising children and adults with disabilities create happy, healthy memories through vacation and recreation experiences, despite disability.” The donation of these wheelchairs is intended to improve beach and water accessibility for disabled persons, and is part of a larger project, which has resulted in the donation of more than 100 wheelchairs to 73 Massachusetts beaches thus far.
This summer, the scope of this project widens, as Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, New Hampshire, and Ontario, Canada, will all receive new wheelchairs. As Ms. Brown put it, “everyone should be able to go to the beach,” and through her and Ms. Diomede’s efforts, this goal is becoming a reality.
Many representatives from the Martha’s Vineyard Parks and Recreation department were present to welcome the chairs, including Jean Townes, administrator Jessica McGroarty, Edgartown park patrol director Dennis Arnold, as well as Ken Maciel from the Tisbury Public Works, and Tisbury selectman Larry Gomez.
If you would like to support this ongoing project, or suggest a new location, SMILE Mass (smilemass.org) is just below halfway to its goal of reaching $40,000 in donations to continue expanding beach wheelchair distribution.