Shake-A-Leg offers Bay Days to build community camaraderie
A sea of wheelchairs and smiles line the docks at the marina along South Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove as adults, teens and children are transported to boats and kayaks for Shake-ALeg Miami’s Bay Days, which take place one Saturday or Sunday each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Bay Days offer hourly boat rides along Biscayne Bay, with music and food, and it’s free and open to the public with a RSVP via Shake-A-Leg’s Facebook page (facebook.com/ ShakeALegMiami). The next one is Sunday, Jan. 6.
“We really believe there is magic in the Bay,” said Harry Horgan, CEO and president of Shake-A-Leg Miami.
“Through our community outreach efforts, we came up with Bay Days. We set up a theme for each month. There’s strength in community. Our goal is to get every kid and adult with disabilities out on the water.”
Shake-A-Leg is a not-for-profit organization that works with children and adults with physical, developmental and economic challenges in a marine environment. It also helps disabled veterans.
After an automobile accident left Horgan paralyzed, the vision to start Shake-A-Leg Miami was born.
“Many are going on the water for the first time,” Horgan said.
Horgan believes with the right attitude, team and proper equipment, anything is possible.
“Kids are matched with mentors and all of the students really leave here with a deeper sense of empathy,” Horgan said. “People with disabilities often get stereotyped. There is no bullying here. People with disabilities are empowered here.”
On weekdays, Shake-A-Leg Miami offers the BRIDGE Program in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, offering a school-year program for students working toward a special education diploma.
“Kids come here and build everything from hand/eye coordination to learn how to be part of a team,” Horgan said. “We also offer kayaking, fishing and sailing instruction.”
Danny Otter, 30, began volunteering at Shake-A-Leg Miami when he was 12. The experience had such a profound impact on his life, the yacht captain continues to volunteer with the organization.
“At a young age, working at Shake-ALeg Miami taught me the benefit of helping others,” said Otter, who is in the Coast Guard Reserves.
Craig Kirk, who is the water sports and weekend manager at Shake-A-Leg Miami, hopes to reach more potential volunteers through Bay Days.
“It’s amazing how many people still don’t know about us, but Bay Days is definitely helping to get the word out,” said Kirk, who has taught more than 1,000 students at Shake-A-Leg how to sail.
“This organization means everything to me. People with physical and mental disabilities as well as those with no disabilities have learned to fish, swim, sail and kayak here. I’ve watched kids who haven’t spoken in five years suddenly start speaking. Many of the students who volunteer here also change their majors to careers in physical therapy.”
Visit ShakeaLegMiami.org for more information.