Empowering disabled as well as able-bodied athletes from around the world, World T.E.A.M Sports will launch from Westhampton Dunes on August 12 its inaugural 22-mile kayak Coastal Team Challenge. Co-sponsored by American Portfolios Financial Services, TimeCapital, CapitalOne, and Independent Group Home Living (IGHL), several IGHL developmentally disabled residents will participate in this two-day, five team non-competitive excursion along the coast of Long Island’s South Shore.
Following breakfast in Westhampton Beach, the teams will begin their trip, heading towards Pikes Beach at West Hampton Dunes for approximately ten miles of kayaking to Smith Point Park, with an overnight stay camping on the beach. Teams will begin again the next morning and travel 12 miles until their final destination in Patchogue with a celebration at the Dublin Deck restaurant on the Great South Bay, where they will undoubtedly be greeted by ardent IGHL supporter Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri.
The IGHL residents are paired with able-bodied coaches in two-person kayaks and have been training for several weeks prior to the challenge. Founded shortly after the 1972 Geraldo Rivera exposé that revealed the horrific conditions and mistreatment of developmentally disabled children at the Willow Brook State School, IGHL has long been the standard nationwide in regards to providing independent group home living and services to the developmentally disabled and this is just another example of their commitment to empower and care for those among us who cannot completely care for themselves. According to IGHL CEO Walter Stockton, “We are very excited to bring this event to IGHL’s consumers and create opportunities that eliminate barriers and enable them to take on challenges they and their families might not have thought possible.”
Kevin McCann, whose family has been long time personal supporters and corporate sponsors of IGHL through their Long Island based 1-800-FLOWERS, will be one of the special athletes participating in the Coastal Team Challenge. Familiar to everyone in Quogue and lead yellow tri-cyclist of the “Coneheads” in the annual Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day parade, IGHL resident Preston Jankowski will also be participating. We also understand that WPPB, WFAN and CBS Sports Analyst and Hamptons.com Contributing Writer Ann Ligouri will be on board the escort boat that will accompany the kayaks.
Lon Dolber, this year’s IGHL Spring Gala Honoree, American Portfolio Financial Services’ CEO and World T.E.A.M Sports Board Member noted, “With Long Island’s strong civic involvement, namely through non-profit organizations like IGHL, providing families and individuals with quality-of-life daily living programs and services throughout the area, Coastal Team Challenge L.I. is a perfect event for fostering social inclusion and building social capital for the community at large.”
Thanks to the support of American Portfolio Financial Services, TimeCapital and CapitalOne, IGHL has once again provided an opportunity for their developmentally disabled consumers to empower, enhance and challenge themselves in a way that prior to non-profit organizations like IGHL and World T.E.A.M. Sports would not be possible.
UPDATE: The WTS Long Island Coastal Team Challenge Finally Launches!
After a one week delay due to inclement weather, the World T.E.A.M. Sports (WTS) LI Coastal Team Challenge finally got underway on August 19. After an alfresco breakfast on an absolutely beautiful Tuesday morning, over a dozen kayaks launched from the Westhampton Beach Marina at 9:00 a.m.
The launch was preceded by an instructional speech by WTS CEO and former Presidential Marine One helicopter pilot Van Brinson. He detailed the diamond shaped formation with lead, trail and side boats that participants should do their best to travel the 22-mile voyage within, the rest stops on the itinerary, and other safety requirements for the trip. He also urged the kayakers, as this was the inaugural event, to share any suggestions regarding improvement for future Coastal Challenges.
Among the several dozen supporters on shore cheering on the participants at their departure were Independent Group Home Living (IGHL) CEO Walter Stockton, Hamptons.com contributor and CBS Sports/WFAN/WPBB Sports Commentator Ann Ligouri, 1-800-FLOWERS CEO Jim McCann whose brother Kevin McCann is an IGHL resident and a LI Coastal Team Challenge participant on the Yellow Fins Team and, obviously, yours truly in support of my brother-in-law and IGHL resident Preston Jankowski of the Blue Claws Team. The other three teams that included both IGHL and WTS coaches in support of developmentally and physically challenged athletes they were paired with were the Green Gators, Red Snappers, and White Caps. American Portfolios Financial Services (APFS) CEO and WTS Board Member Lon Dobler was also a participant and solo piloted the trail kayak.
After two rest stops at Pikes Beach and the eastern part of Smith Point State Park, the kayakers landed at the Smith Point Campground and set up camp with tents supplied by Lon Dobler for an overnight respite, dinner and camper revelry. After a good night’s sleep, the teams set off on Wednesday morning from Smith Point for their destination in Patchogue at the Dublin Deck Restaurant and Tiki Bar in the Leeward Cove Marina.
Following second day rest stops at John Boyle Island and Beech Road in Bellport, the teams were scheduled to arrive at 3:00 p.m. and they did indeed arrive exactly on time. Greeted by cheers and cheerleaders complete with pomp-pomps, the kayakers were all smiles and any exhaustion faded as they climbed from the kayaks and upon the dock filled with pride and a true sense of achievement. As expected, proud Patchogue Mayor and IGHL Chairman of the Board Paul Pontieri was on hand to greet the athletes and welcome them to Patchogue at the end of their journey, “What better place? This is Patchogue; everything starts and ends in Patchogue!”
Once the kayaks were pulled from the water on to dry ground, everyone gathered on the Tiki Bar deck of the Dublin Deck for an awards ceremony. As a non-competitive race every participant received a purple ribbon medal, a map of the race route and a bouquet of flowers supplied by Jim McCann and 1-800-Flowers. There was also a souvenir keepsake booklet created by IGHL staff members that included bios of the participants. The awards ceremony was followed by a lovely buffet early dinner for participants, their families, friends, and staffers.
A remarkable first effort by World T.E.A.M Sports, supported by Independent Group Home Living, American Portfolios Financial Services, TimeCapital, and CapitalOne, IGHL CEO Walter Stockton was thrilled by the result, “Now that the first one is in the books I could not be more excited about the way this event turned out. There were so many great people involved in this event to make it turn out right, I could not be prouder of my group and it is so great to meet and work with all the people from World T.E.A.M. Sports and I know we are going to be seeing them plenty in the future.”
APFS CEO Lon Dobler echoed Stockton’s call for future Coastal Team Challenges saying, “It was great, I have always wanted to do one on Long Island and we had the two best days of summer to make this a great event. Hopefully it is not the last one and we will have many more Coastal Team Challenges on Long Island.”
The LI Coastal Team Challenge is a superb example of community, business and charitable organizations coming together to support, enable and empower developmentally and physically disabled individuals. Extraordinary individuals that might otherwise not be able to feel the pride of accomplishment that the rest of us take for granted. As Preston, with tears in his eyes, told his sister Lily who we called at work at Stony Brook University Hospital at the end of the race, “I did it Sissy! I knew I could do it and I did it!”