NORFOLK — This year’s Harborfest, which took place June 7 to 9, had a special guest as part of the annual Parade of Sail: the Impossible Dream sailing vessel.
The Impossible Dream is a boat designed to be sailed by people with disabilities and the Norfolk stop is part of its summer-long tour, offering communities the chance to see it and learn about the vessel’s mission, while introducing the joys of sailing to wheelchair users and others with life-changing illnesses, said Harry Horgan, co-founder of Impossible Dream.
All summer long the vessel will tour up and down the East Coast, looking for what Horgan calls, “the community innovators, those who are dedicated to helping people with disabilities.”
When Impossible Dream was docked in the city, it offered rides to local “Wounded Warriors,” Horgan said.
A wheelchair user himself, Horgan wanted to find a way to make sailing accessible to other wheelchair users and others with disabilities that would make traditional sailing difficult.
“Sailing the high seas can make you feel better,” he said, adding he’s seen how people’s faces light up when they get a chance to steer the boat.
Impossible Dream is based year-round in Miami and is part of Shake-A-Leg: Miami, an organization founded by Horgan and his partner Mike Browne.
Shake-A-Leg: Miami uses water to improve people’s independence and their quality of life.
When the boat isn’t touring the high seas, it’s docked in Miami and is used as part of Shake-A-Leg programming.
A local partner that has helped Impossible Dream become a reality is Volvo Penta of the Americas.
Part of the company’s mission is to make boating easier for everyone.
“We want to make boating more accessible,” said Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Penta of the Americas.
When approached by Impossible Dream, Huibers said he could tell it was everything his company represented — accessible boating.
Volvo Penta assisted Impossible Dream by providing parts for the boat such as an engine and propeller replacements to get it up and running, Huibers said.
Impossible Dream is planning on coming back to the city for next year’s Harborfest to once again give rides to people with disabilities and find new community partners.
To learn more about the program and its mission, click here.