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Story by:  Robert Stopper, Lyons

Robinson and Hamlin families outside Lock 27
On Saturday June 29, 2013, a spectacle of inspiration and admiration took place on the Erie Canal in Lyons, NY!  Congenital quad amputee John Robinson, founder of “Our Ability” and quadriplegic Doug Hamlin and their families paddled an outrigger canoe on the Erie Canal.

After launching at Abbey Park, they entered Lock E 27. The gates closed. There was momentary silence as the water depth began to drop 12 feet. Then laughter and chatter filled the cavern as everyone realized, “”Hey this is safe. We can do this”.

 The gates opened. The outriggers exited the lock and continued their paddle heading east towards Clyde. Because of impending thunderstorms, after paddling several miles, it was decided to turn around and return to safety.

Pam Hamlin, wheeling her husband, Doug to the water to board his kayak
Although disabled, John and Doug had just accomplished what many without disabilities have never done- they “Locked Through” and paddled on the Erie Canal!

The canal and lock experience was part of the Our Ability 350 mile trek across the state to raise awareness of the great ability inside all people, including those with disabilities, and to raise funds for Educational and Adaptive Sports Scholarships for people with disabilities.

 John, a congenital quadriplegic has been married to his wife Andrea for almost 20 years.  Doug, confined to a wheel chair for 30 years, has been married to his wife Pam for almost 30 years. Positive thinking and a tremendous faith in each other have stood the test of time-  John, Doug, and their families do not see problems, obstacles, or negatives in life- they see only opportunities!

Accompanying John and Doug on their Erie Canal experience were John’s wife, Andrea and children Owen and Ariel; Doug and his wife Pam; Jan Whitaker and Kevin Berl.

The outrigger canoes, special seating arrangements, and special adaptive paddles were provided by Jan Whitaker, founder of Cape Ability Outrigger Ohana, Inc., a Rochester Chapter of Disabled Sports, USA.  Assisting Jan with the Our Ability paddle on the Erie Canal was Kevin Berl, President of the New York Marathon Canoe Racing Association.


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