Sailors show their abilities

Nathan Chan, SWD volunteer Kristi Foster, Dylan Sanders, teachers assistant Grant Errington and Luke Bundesen on board the Sailors with Disabilities Yacht Kayle.
Nathan Chan, SWD volunteer Kristi Foster, Dylan Sanders, teachers assistant Grant Errington and Luke Bundesen on board the Sailors with Disabilities Yacht Kayle.

JUST five years ago, Kristi Foster was confined to a wheelchair and in a state of depression after breaking her back in a car crash when she was 21.

But a chance meeting with a very special organisation meant Ms Foster was able to bid farewell to the wheelchair, selling it two years ago.

Now she is helping to spread the message as a volunteer with the group that helped her, Sailing With Disabilities (SWD).

The SWD boat, also known as Faceboat, sailed into Bundaberg this week with volunteers such as Ms Foster on board who will spend days playing host to children with disabilities who will be taught not only the ins and outs of sailing but, more importantly, shown just how capable they really are.

"A person's biggest disability is not the physical disability, it's always their head, no matter what the disability," Ms Foster said.

"This program with the kids is incredible.

"They meet someone like me who was in a wheelchair and you can see the little glimmer in their eye."

Ms Foster was in and out of a wheelchair for 15 years before she came across SWD.

"At my best I was on crutches and a brace and at the worst I was bed ridden in hospital but five years ago SWD came into Coffs (Harbour) and I was wheeling down the marina wharf and there was a boat loading a wheelchair onto it and I was quite incredulous.

"I went to speak to them and they said you can do this.

"Five years later and I sold my wheelchair two years ago."

Ms Foster said the constant movement of the boat had helped to strengthen her back muscles and allow her to move around without the help of a chair.

SWD volunteer Gordon Smith said the program had been running for 20 years.

"It has grown and grown and this year our northern campaigns is visiting six different ports in two months and we'll take out about 900 people and 70 or 80 in wheelchairs," Mr Smith said.

"The biggest thing that we the crew get out of it is seeing the smiles."

For more information or to make a donation, visit

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