WILDWOOD – The sands of Iraq and Afghanistan are a long way from Wildwood, but two local veterans’ groups made it a bit easier for disabled veterans and visitors alike to make their way across Wildwood’s wide beach.
Members of American Legion Post 184 and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 955 were on hand at the Schellenger Avenue beach on August 23, 2013 to present a state-of-the-art surf chair to the Wildwood Beach Patrol.
Unlike other surf chairs, the newest addition is based on the dynamic of a rickshaw with two wheels and is pulled across the sand rather than pushed like a conventional wheelchair. The chairs are built almost entirely of PVC and are easily taken apart for transport. In addition to giving handicapped beachgoers access to the water’s edge, the chairs can be placed in the surf.
“The surf wheelchair is a major need for the Beach Patrol,” said Chief Steven Stocks. He added that several of the City’s surf chairs were rendered inoperable after being damaged last fall by Hurricane Sandy. “This generous donation will help people who have difficulty getting to and from the water to enjoy it.” Stocks explained that while the Beach Patrol continues to drive visitors across the beach to water’s edge, the addition of the new surf chairs will allow visitors to take a dip in the ocean. “It will be greatly appreciated by the people who use it to visit our beaches.”
“I’m hopeful that this will be a great success,” said Michael Trombly, one of the chair’s developers. According to Trombly, he hopes the chair will be used by many, including disabled veterans. “We’re excited that the Vietnam Veterans of Wildwood and the American Legion are partnering with the City of Wildwood for increasing universal access for everyone.”
“We have a beautiful, wide beach,” said Stocks. “And anytime we can create more access, it’s a positive thing.” According to Stocks, use of the surf chair is free and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Unlike previous four-wheeled push models, Stocks said he believes the new two-wheeled pull chair is better ergonomic design for going across sand. “This is really about better mobility at the waterfront rather than getting to and from.”
Funding for the chair was raised entirely through fund raisers held by the two veterans’ groups. “We do it from donations from different affairs that we have,” said Bob MacBride of American Legion Post 184. He added the post will be having four additional fundraising events throughout the year.
“This is not the first time these organizations have helped the City,” said Mayor Ernie Troiano. “These men and women are truly friends of the City of Wildwood.”
Commissioner Anthony Leonetti thanked the veterans for their gift to the City by presenting each group with a plaque. “I can’t thank you enough for what you have already done for our country and for what you continue to do for our city. It’s incredible.”