Stephen Cull is the Founder of CharterAbility: A dream he has turned into reality – Fully accessible boating for persons of all ages with disabilities! CharterAbility’s sponsors, supporters and volunteers were invited to visit their beautiful accessible docking facility located on 16-Mile Creek adjoining Busby Park.
The dock is fully accessible, as are the on-site washrooms and the pontoon boat that transports guests on an hour long voyage of discovery into a wild life sanctuary right in the heart of downtown Oakville. There were free boat rides, delicious hamburgers and an opportunity to meet and recruit other volunteer crew members.
Born and raised close to the shores of Lake Ontario, Stephen Cull led an active life until a tobogganing accident in 1991. After 38 days in intensive care and 11 months rehab he was confined to a wheelchair. In the years that followed, Stephen missed his life on the water and wondered if he could change his circumstances. A big dream developed as he got to thinking; “Why not? Why couldn’t people with disabilities experience the pleasures of boating?” That was nine years ago.
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“It was the glimmering of an idea that finally crystallized almost a year later in the summer of 2001 at a cottage in Muskoka where Stephen was staying with friends, one of whom had a pontoon boat and a specially constructed dock, both wheelchair accessible. Stephen invited his 85 year old aunt along but she declined. Having sailed most of her life, she knew that you had to ‘climb’ into a boat and felt she was no longer able to do that comfortably. When Stephen mentioned that he would be ‘rolling’ onto the boat in his wheelchair her eyes lit up, “Count me in,” she said. As the four unlikely shipmates were cruising on the lake, the look of pleasure on his aunt’s face got Stephen thinking about what it would take to provide the same opportunity for others.”
In 2003 CharterAbility was founded and, together with Stephen’s ever growing team of avid, generous supporters and sponsors, the program has opened the door to free recreational boating for both children and adults who had been deprived of the opportunity by virtue of their physical limitations or personal circumstances, thus enhancing the quality of their lives.
CharterAbility founded “A Cruise for a Cause” and there were exciting adventures on Lake Ontario aboard the Wayward Princess and the Empire Sandy. During the summer free, scheduled, one and one half hour cruises took place mornings and afternoons on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with trips up Sixteen Mile Creek in the heart of downtown Oakville. Members of the Oakville boat clubs offered their services for this very worthwhile cause and a pontoon boat was offered to transport guests on these cruises.
Stephen Cull was a recipient of the 2012 Community Spirit Awards; The Access Award, sponsored by MEDIchair, recognizes outstanding individuals, businesses or organizations that have made or are making a significant or ongoing voluntary contribution, beyond legislated requirements, to the well-being and advancement of people with disabilities.
Stephen was also awardedThe Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal last June. Both awards were celebrations of his generous spirit and the countless hours he has spent volunteering and supporting the many activities related to those less fortunate in the Oakville community.
CharterAbility has now grown to a point where, for the past three years, Stephen has been invited, with a CharterAbility equipped, Princecraft pontoon boat, to the Annual Boat Show in Toronto. Again this year, a pontoon boat and accessible dock will be displayed on the man-made lake and Stephen and his team will be able to spread ideas about fully accessible boating and Charterability to this vast audience.
A not-for- profit organization, supported by the Trillium Fund, the Town of Oakville and a host of loyal sponsors and supporters, Stephen knows that he has not accomplished this task alone. His successes today have been with the help of many talented, dedicated people from all walks of life. He will continue to need support. Perhaps you have a way to contribute. Stephen appreciates your help!
“The purpose of recreation is not to kill time but to stimulate activity – not to keep people occupied but to keep them refreshed – not to offer an escape from life but to expand its possibilities.” Stephen Cull
To find out how you can help with the CharterAbility dream as either a sponsor or as a volunteer, visit their web-site at www.charterability.com.