The Sheltering Arms Accessible Travel Group returned to Richmond earlier this week after five days in paradise. This wasn’t your average group of vacationers, however. For many of these individuals, it was the first vacation since significant health events altered their lives in profound ways.
Seventy-three travelers took part in the cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Carnival Glory. The majority of the group heard about the trip through Sheltering Arms’ Club Rec, a day recreation program designed to help individuals adapt to life after an illness or injury through social, recreational and wellness activities. Nine of the passengers have had strokes, four have suffered traumatic brain injuries, and thirteen additional travelers have experienced amputation, spinal cord injury, and other health conditions. The remaining travelers included family members and friends of these individuals as well as Sheltering Arms staff members who diligently planned the trip to ensure a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.
“A tremendous amount of detail is involved in planning an accessible trip for a group this large, especially when leaving the country,” says Rhonda Riggleman, Manager of Therapeutic Recreation at Sheltering Arms. “Many of these folks have been too apprehensive to travel since experiencing their illness or injury and we wanted to show them that they can still enjoy the things they love to do.”
Not only did they have the opportunity to enjoy some fun in the sun, but they were able to take part in excursions such as touring the beautiful Atlantis, visiting straw markets in Freeport, and even swimming with dolphins! There were plenty of activities for those who chose to stay on the ship as well, from playing cards on the pool deck to karaoke, comedy shows and musical productions.
The group even stumbled upon a surprise fellow cruiser! Elliott Yamin, who placed third on season 5 of American Idol, posed for pictures and sang karaoke with the Sheltering Arms travelers.
Riggleman and her team planned every detail to accommodate a wide range of disabilities, from securing rooms with wheelchair accessible bathrooms to arranging excursions while visiting island ports.
“We wanted our travelers to be able to enjoy every aspect of their vacation,” Riggleman adds.
For more pictures of the group’s adventures, visit Sheltering Arms on Facebook.