Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THERAPY ON THE RIVER; Program Gives Those with Disabilities a Way to Stay in Shape, Physically and Mentally Rowing the St. Johns, Disabilities Float Away

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THERAPY ON THE RIVER; Program Gives Those with Disabilities a Way to Stay in Shape, Physically and Mentally Rowing the St. Johns, Disabilities Float Away

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM AASEN

What Lorri Newstadt remembers most about her first time rowing the St. Johns River is the sights.

As she stroked the oars, she said dolphins and manatees circled her boat. She saw waves ripple and the city skyline in the background.

But probably the best part, she said, was seeing her wheelchair sitting on the shore.

Newstadt, 44, a paraplegic since she fell out of a tree four years ago, was able to move without wheels.

"It was kind of overwhelming to look out there and see my chair with me not in it," she said.

Jacksonville University and Brooks Rehabilitation have teamed up to offer an adaptive rowing program for people with disabilities. Participants train at the Negaard Rowing Center on JU's campus as form of physical and psychological therapy.

Alice Krauss, manager of Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation, said sports are a great way to keep muscles strong, make new friends and combat depression.

JU rowing coach Jim Mitchell said there's not much different about rowing with a disability. Besides using legs and stomach muscles to perfect a stroke, he said there's not much disabled competitors can't do.

For JU President Kerry Romesburg, the program is near to his heart. His son, Rod Romesburg, an English professor at Stetson University, is a quadriplegic who was injured while surfing in Mexico in the 1980s.

The program started back in September and participants have come from varied backgrounds.

Charles Brugh, 43, suffered brain damage after a car accident in 1990. He had to teach himself how to talk, walk and write again. He's had to rebuild his brain and exercise has been the key.

More importantly though, he said he's inspired by the amazing feeling out there on the river.

"Psychologically, it's fantastic," he said. "You have to have the right frame of mind. This allows people to be active and feel good about yourself. It allows you to feel alive again."

For 64-year-old Terry Cosgrove, adaptive rowing is all about letting him compete again. Up until his motorcycle accident two years ago, the retiree was playing flag football and softball on a regular basis. …

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