Atlanta, GA,
16:30 PM

Former Shepherd Center Patients Learn Adaptive Water Skiing

More workshops scheduled for summer 2017.

The opportunity to get a good workout and have fun on the water attracted seven former Shepherd Center patients and Beyond Therapy® clients from around the nation to the hospital’s first of three adapted water skiing workshops being held this summer on metro Atlanta lakes. Some participants – all of whom had a spinal cord injury – were newcomers to the sport, and some were veterans of the activity.

“Many people are unaware that after having a spinal cord injury, a person can still be able to engage in sports activities, such as water skiing, golf, swimming, rugby, basketball and many other sports,” says Becky Washburn, wellness manager for Shepherd Center. “With new technology and adaptive equipment, these sports are available for people of all abilities.”

Shepherd Center, which has organized water skiing workshops for more than 20 years, sponsored a June 10 clinic at Lake Allatoona in Acworth, Georgia, in collaboration with the Atlanta Water Ski Club. Shepherd Center staff and club volunteers provided instruction and equipment needed to participate in the event.

Event participants Mackenzie Johnson, Colby Higgins and Jillian Harpin were newcomers at the water skiing workshop. Returning participants were Jared Coppola, Ryan Gibson, Michael Francklin and Janet Paulsen. After attending last year’s water skiing workshop, Janet joined Shepherd Center’s water skiing team and then qualified for the USA Water Ski national championship tournament.

At the June 10 event, veteran water skiing clinic participant Jared Coppola, 24, of North Reading, Massachusetts, said, “It was a good workout and it was great to see other patients out there, meet new people and see them having a good time, just as I did.”

Ryan Gibson, 27, of Duluth, Georgia, said: “I got the chance to get a lot more confidence by water skiing. It feels good to be in the water and even better to be up skiing. I’m doing a lot better and am hoping to use this as an opportunity to stay in shape. I’m really happy to be able to water ski.”

Another newcomer, Mackenzie Johnson, 20, of Mauldin, South Carolina, said: “I really enjoyed Shepherd’s water skiing workshop. I never participated in water sports before my injury, but it’s a great opportunity to get out on the water and have a good time.”

The next Shepherd Center water skiing workshops will be held July 15 and August 12 in metro Atlanta. The cost is $50 per participant. To register, contact Yvette Tisdale at or 404-350-7789.

Article and Photos by Alaina Case

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.