The scope of people's lives impacted by the humble and generous Terry Kohler is astounding. My life is changed because of him and the people of the Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS), which he founded.
I grew up as an enthusiastic recreational sailor, but was stricken 13 years ago by ALS, a progressive, fatal disease that causes paralysis of all voluntary muscles. Now a functional quadriplegic who can't speak, eat, walk or use my hands, I thought my sailing days were over.
In 2015, SEAS learned of my longing to go sailing and, with Terry's support, SEAS, Harken and I worked to find ways to not just get in a boat but to sail it. We adapted a Sonar with a swiveling seat, headrest, and bite switches connected to an auto helm for steering and highly sensitive touch switches to trim with a Harken Rewind winch.
I can now leave my power wheelchair at the dock and sail solo. I am not bound by walls or stairs, I have the freedom of the open waters of Lake Michigan. For those who take for granted the ability to go outside and move, imagine life contained within a few rooms suddenly liberated through sailing.
The adaptive sailing program at SEAS has served 5 other people with ALS this year, giving all of us and our families something to look forward to, to enjoy, and to share. None of this would have been possible without Terry Kohler.
Thank you, Terry, for changing lives in so many ways. - Steve Heronemus