By Robin and Larry Greenhall, Fairfield, CT
We have lived with MS for the past 28 years. Throughout the progression of my disease we have adapted and remodeled, as necessary, to live as comfortably and independently as possible in our two story home. A first floor master bedroom, wheelchair lift in the garage, roll-in shower, and grab bars have made for a safe and barrier-free home.
But when it came time to plan family vacations the stress began long before we packed the car.
We frequently found that owners of accommodations at vacation destinations rarely comprehended the true needs of someone in a wheelchair. For me, one bar in the bathroom is not sufficient for my independence. A shower stall with a three inch lip is a serious barrier. Beds too high to transfer onto are a constant challenge. Reservation clerks, with good intentions, rarely understand the daily frustrations faced and travel can quickly be dreaded, rather than joyfully anticipated.
For many years we have dreamed of being able to find a few vacation spots with suitable accommodations and user-friendly activities. In 2008, after many failed rental attempts, we began the search to purchase and renovate vacation homes that would meet our needs. We now have two ideal vacation spots that we love and want to share with others who are mobility challenged.
After our first trip to Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, Delaware, a part of our dream came true. This award-winning tennis and beach resort has walking paths throughout the resort. It is rarely necessary to transfer in and out of your vehicle once you have arrived. If you do tire of the walking trails, an accessible tram will take you to the beach, pools, tennis or fitness center. There are transfer chairs at the indoor and outdoor pools, a ramped promenade connecting the nine oceanfront buildings, and beach wheelchairs are available for your enjoyment. A flat half mile trip on a scooter takes you and your family to the main street of town where there are plenty of restaurants and activities. We enjoy Sea Colony so much that we have recently purchased a second unit that will be ready for the summer of 2011.
We spent many years searching the West coast of Florida looking for a winter spot to warm our spirits. We wanted a place where someone who is mobility challenged could be involved in family activities: shell seeking on the beach, nature strolls, and walks to restaurants and shops. We found our winter home in Pointe Santo De Sanibel, on Sanibel Island in Florida. On Sanibel we have a beach front location with easy access to the Gulf and there are bike/scooter paths galore. With the rental of a scooter and beach wheelchair we are one happy family vacationing together.
We now look forward to each trip to our homes in Florida and Delaware knowing that they are welcoming places for someone who is mobility challenged. Our vacation units have no stairs, bathrooms with roll in showers, comfort height toilets with grab bars on both sides, roll-under vanities, and wide doorways. If you are a full time wheelchair user some help in the kitchen will still be needed as we have not yet refitted the cooking areas for freedom of use without assistance.
“Designed by one with wheels for the comfort and enjoyment of others with wheels.”
The purpose of this article is twofold…First, we want to spread the word that there are three beautiful condos for rent that will fulfill the needs of a resort vacation for anyone who is mobility challenged. Second, we are seeking other owners of wheelchair accommodating vacation properties who would be interested in joining our efforts to market their homes to this special group. For more information about joining our efforts or to make a reservation, email us at email@example.com.
The Greater New England Chapter is extremely proud of the 28 students who received MS Scholarships this year, totaling more than $55,000, within Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. National MS Society Scholarships are presented annually to select students across the country, who have a parent with MS or who themselves have MS, and are pursuing a college or technical school education.
Special mention goes to Caitlyn Lowell of Portland, Maine, who was named a national top scholar.
Photos of the recipients from the Greater New England Chapter along with information for each recipient can be seen our our website.
MileStones Gala 2011 celebrated the significant achievements in advancing the mission made by the Lipcon & Palmer Family, reaching $2 million in fundraising, and by R.J. Kelly Company, through event sponsorship and participation of the Kelly Family. The evening was capped off by a performance from David Osmond, who was diagnosed with MS in 2006.
Host Anthony Everett of WCVB-TV5 and MileStones Co-Chair Cathy MacPherson welcomed a large audience to the 2011 MileStones Gala on April 12.
Families coming together around loved ones with MS became an informal theme for the Gala. In addition to the fundraising and leadership provided by the Lipcon & Palmer Family and the Kelly Family, the Osmond Family has been a champion of the movement since Alan Osmond, oldest of the performing Osmond Brothers singing group, was diagnosed with MS in the early 1990s. His son, David Osmond, nephew of Donnie & Marie Osmond, was also diagnosed in 2006 and has become a tireless ambassador for the National MS Society. David appears at luncheons and dinners for chapters all over the country, including an appearance at the Women on the Move Luncheon in Maine in March of this year, and at the Connecticut Chapter at the beginning of May.
The MileStones in Philanthropy award was presented to the Lipcon and Palmer Family, featuring Jan Lipcon (seated), her mother, Barbara Palmer (to Jan's right), and Jan's husband, Eli Lipcon (standing behind Jan), plus Jan and Eli's two sons, and other family members.
The Corporate MileStones award was presented to R.J. Kelly Company for their outstanding sponsorship and support of National MS Society fundraising events, and the participation of the Kelly Family. Seated is Laura Kelly, mother to Brandon Kelly, President (standing to her left), and to Scott Kelly, Sr. Vice President (second from left).