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Six young adults have a chance to make a difference.


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Sorry for the long post but Innocent.gifplease read to the end.

My son RAJKD1 on the crew, his sister and four other members of our ski team participated in the Chicago Air and water show.

The following email details the first two days and their chance to make a difference in someones lives. A big thanks to Munson Ski ( Malibu Dealer) for their sponcership of this event this year and in the past. If you get past this first post the following are some pictures from the exhibition shows on Saturday and Sunday morning on Lake Michigan. Thumbup.gif

Hey everybody,

It's not often that you head out to do something fun with your

friends, and end up coming home knowing that you have made a real

difference in someone's life. What started out as six Aqua Jays

heading to Chicago to enjoy the sport that we are lucky to be able to

participate in, and enjoy some of the things a large city like Chicago

has to offer, ended up being a truly inspiring and humbling experience

that will stay with us for a lifetime. That's exactly what happened

to Hayley, Mandy, Laura, Ben (Rajkd1), Ian , and

myself this past two days as we participated in Air and Water part one.

The Air and Water Show has always been a two part experience for our

team. (Rock Aquajays from Janesville, WI and Munson Ski, Malibu dealer from

north Chicago area)

Everybody knows about the ski shows that we perform on Saturday

and Sunday mornings at the show itself, those are the ones that we

always need a large group of skiers to attend. What some of you may

not know is that there has always been a smaller group of us that are

required to be in Chicago, on the water at 7:00 Friday morning. This

is press day. The sole purpose of this is to get the boat ( Malibu Rlxi) and our

skiers in the background of all the morning shows taping live at the

show, doing interviews, and pulling the occasional morning news

personality skiing or in a tube. It is usually hectic and a little

boring at the same time as we are never given any warning as to when

the cameras go live. After the press event we always look forward to

enjoying the city and the boat cruise we take down the Chicago River

at the very bases of some of the tallest buildings in the world. Talk

about a change of scenery from the good old Rock River. It is a truly

unique and awesome perspective on the city.

What for myself has become routine (I have been at all of the Air and

Water Shows and press days) was changed this year both for the show

and for me personally. The big change is the fact that this is the

50th anniversary of the Air and Water Show. This caused the schedule

to be altered for the first time since the Rock Aqua Jays have been

doing the show, and added events that necessitated the addition of

Thursday morning. Because of this Bryanna Barkley, the only other

team member to have been at every show and press day, had to miss

press day this year due to work. (Don't you hate it when work gets in

the way of skiing!) It was very strange, after all these years of

working together at Air and Water, to not have her personality and

experience there. Luckily for all of us, Bryanna's streak of shows

will continue this weekend as she will be skiing Saturday and Sunday.

Fortunately, the five skiers above stepped up and worked very hard to

fill the large void left behind and in the process have two very

different sets of stories to tell. One set full of fun and humor, the

other a strange mix of sadness and joy, desperation and hope, guilt

and pride.

First the fun, and in the grand scheme of life, the insignificant.

We all met at the warehouse Thursday morning at 4:30 to load up and

head to Chicago. I was very suprised that everybody jumped out of

their cars and immediately got to work, getting the boat loaded,

covered, hooked up and on the road in fifteen minutes. WOW! We threw

a DVD in the truck and headed out of Janesville. Then reality set in

as they were all in various stages of sleep by Beloit. So much for

someone to chat with. After a quick stop at the Belvidere Oasis signs

of life started to appear. The miracle that is a McDonald's and

Starbucks started the waking process and the conversation picked up.

That is when Laura kept up the tradition of someone saying something

really stupid on the way to Air and Water. This year it was "I'm

curious what it's going to be like to ski on salt water." We couldn't

figure out if she thought she was going to ski on The Michigan Ocean

or the Sea of Michigan? Obviously not as awake as she looked! Then

again this is the girl that lives in Monroe and doesn't know what

sound a cow makes. We continued on and despite road construction from

Beloit to Rockford and the threat of weekday rush hour we make it to

downtown Chicago in 2 hours and 15 minutes. No traffic! Things were

off to a great start. We put the boat in the water and headed out of

the harbor. As we got to the lake we noticed that the wind was out of

the east and the lake was getting rough. Luckily our new event on

Thursday would take place inside the breakwater so we headed out in

our club boat in 1 to 2 foot waves. As the day went on we could see

that the wind was picking up. By the time we headed out of the

breakwater and back to the harbor the waves were 3-4 feet and made for

an exciting rollercoaster ride back. With our boat back on the

trailer and 3 hours to kill before we could check in to our hotel we

headed to the Sears Tower to check out the observation deck on the

103rd floor. If it is your first time or your 20th it is still

amazing that you can be standing that far up in the air. (Yes I

leaned against the glass like in the movie Ferris Buehler) What made

it even more impressive was watching the Blue Angels fighter jets

flying past the building BELOW where we were standing! We then headed

down to the 2nd floor and went to a mexican restaurant in the

building. We had some nachos for lunch and played some bean bag toss

on the deck outside. Then it was off to our hotel. Munson put us up

at the Swissotel, a four star hotel adjacent to the Wrigley and

Tribune buildings on the Chicago river. Big fluffy pillow top beds

with down comforters, big screen HDTV set, super thick bath robes and

a pool and spa on the 42nd floor with fantastic views of the city,

river, and lake! We all agreed that we could get use to that! After

cleaning up it was off to Gino's East for dinner. Gino's is a famous

pizza place in Chicago that allows you to write on the walls. With

markers in hand we headed in, got a table, and began to mark Gino's

with a large Rock Aqua Jays! After a filling meal and a trip down

Michigan Avenue we went back to the hotel to get some much needed

sleep. Day 2 saw us doing our traditional press day events starting

at 7:00 on the water. Only problem is the wind picked up and so did

the waves. Now 3-5 foot waves, it was time to utilize the massive 25

foot Malibu Wakesetter that seats 16 people. This is the boat that

Munson provides to be our equipment boat/starting dock. Today it

would be our towboat. We headed to press day and as usual it was a

case of hurry up and wait as we are at the whim of the camera crews

doing live remotes for various Chicago TV stations. Obviously too

rough to ski our job was to just position the boat in the background

of the TV shots. Easier said than done as we bobbed like a cork in

the ocean. Ocean? Maybe Laura was right about the salt water because

it did not seem like we were on a lake. Part of press day is

interviews and Laura volunteered. We carefully positioned the boat so

she could get up on the sea wall and then proceeded to head back out

and bob. That's when we noticed Hayley getting a little green. (We

had been bobbing for about 2 hours) After trying to not have to go to

shore, she relented and we put her on shore so she wouldn't get sick.

We returned to the lake and all of a sudden Ben is getting sick over

the side of the boat! Sea sick water skiers? While this is

happening, Hayley and Laura are getting to chat with Florence

Henderson on shore (The mom on the Brady Bunch)! With press day over,

we head back inside the break water and continue the new event that we

had started the day before. After that's done we head up the Chicago

River for a much needed calm boat ride through downtown and then head

back to the harbor and head home.

Now for the second set of stories. The new event that brought us to

Chicago a day early was to help disabled veterans get the chance to

waterski as part of the Wounded Warriors program. A group of New York

City firemen where in Chicago helping some of the Chicago fire

department get the program started and we were asked to provide boat

driving, skiing assistance, and encouragement. We were all a little

apprehensive not knowing what we were getting into but that quickly

went away when we started pulling skiers and hearing their stories.

The first person we pulled was a young man who had lost the use of his

legs in a blast. He was also had a fear of water but still wanted to

try and water ski. As they placed him in the sit ski and I tightened

the line, the look of fear was obvious. We slowly took off but almost

immediately he felt like he was going too fast so he tipped himself

off the ski. We were going 3.5 miles an hour. To us that seems

ridiculously slow, but to someone with a fear of water and who has

been through what he has, we were flying. After a few more attempts,

he was truly flying around the lake at a blistering 8.5 miles an

hour. And then it happened, the look of fear left his face and their

was a smile! Next up was Dan. Dan lost his left arm at the shoulder

and has severe damage to the rest of his left side after a blast in

Iraq. Dan was outfitted with a harness around his shoulder that had

an attachment for a special ski handle so that he could hold the rope

with one arm and his shoulder. He turned out to be our Mario

Andretti. From the moment that he took off on the sit ski, he was

constantly asking for more speed. He was happily bouncing across

rough Lake Michigan with not a care in the world, a huge smile on his

face, at a speedy 25 mph! Then there was John. John lost his lower

right leg in a blast and has only been out of the hospital about three

weeks. When they helped him to the sit ski we could see that he had

absolutely no expression, just a blank gaze. We began to pull him and

still no expression. I very slowly sped up and he just kept skiing.

No smile, no frown, nothing. We dropped him back at the beach, and

they helped him to shore, still no expression. Maybe skiing isn't his

thing, maybe it was too soon after the terrible events that cost him

his leg, maybe he was just having a bad day. We were all disappointed

that we couldn't help put a smile on his face at least for a little

while. Then on the second day John came back. Again no expression as

we began to pull him, then it happened. On his second lap, as we were

the farthest from shore, there was a smile. Not a huge beaming smile,

but a quick look at us and a small but obvious smile for a short

time. Maybe skiing WAS his thing, maybe it was too soon, maybe he was

having a bad day, but I'm sure better days are coming. The last

veteran I'm going to tell you about was a pretty young Marine that

played college basketball at the University of Notre Dame. Her name

is Danielle and she led the Lady Irish in 3-point efficiency . While

stationed in Iraq she lost her left hand in a blast, the same hand

that brought her success in college, but that wasn't her biggest

concern. On her left hand was her engagement ring. She pleaded with

her fellow Marines to try and find her ring, and amazingly they did,

still on her badly damaged hand. She was able to save her ring but

unfortunately doctors couldn't save her hand. She too smiled as she

glided across the waters of Lake Michigan.

Sadness in seeing the evils of war and what it can do to people, joy

in seeing the smiles on their faces as they enjoy themselves.

Desperation in seeing what they have been through and the difficulties

they will have the rest of their lives, hope in seeing them break down

the barriers their disabilities have placed in front of them as they

strive to enjoy the very things we take for granted. Guilt for how

our country treats its disabled veterans and knowing that we can all

do more to help those who have given so much for our country, pride in

knowing that for a few hours on a weekend in August we can all make a

difference in someone's life. Six Aqua Jays went to Chicago this week

and we will never be the same.

Joel W

Edited by walnuthill
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Here are a few pictures from the show on Sunday.

A huge Thanks to Munson Ski and Marine for their sponcership of this event


Reports were that there were 1 - 2 ft swells on Sunday AM during the show. :unsure:

Leaving the Marina.



Edited by walnuthill
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This is a great weekend. We had a lot of fun. It is very different skiing on big water like that. Also I want to give Munson a hung thanks for putting us up and providing the 247 for our "Dock" Also if any of you saw any of the show let me know what you think.


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Sounds like fun. That lakes a little bigger than my home lake. But there is a cool bar that I've been to a couple of times right here.


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I caught the second half from the volleyball courts. Never knew there was showskiing!

Who was doing your announcing?

It was Elizabeth from Munson Ski

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A few more notes from Saturday and Sunday's show.

Aaron barefooted in 1 - 3 foot swells. Rockon.gif


Ben did 5 consecutive 360 around the boat in the same water. Thumbup.gif

Kathy and Mandy swivel skied.

5 girls did a ballet line

they built a 3 hi pyramid

did a Strap trios act

strap doubles act and

conventional doubles

All this in water that normally would be considered unskiable for these acts.

Great job kids!!! Clap.gif

Edited by walnuthill
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  • 2 months later...

Awesome to hear that. Glad to hear of the veterans thing, that would be fun. Where in the midwest are you guys at? I am in Rockford, and on the rock river many times.

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  • 2 months later...
Awesome to hear that. Glad to hear of the veterans thing, that would be fun. Where in the midwest are you guys at? I am in Rockford, and on the rock river many times.

We are in Javesville

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are you towing back the other malibnu?

Yes, we are because me put it up on the beach to far and broke the key way on the prop shaft when we tryed to get it off

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