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Monday, May 27, 2024

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Upper Getting New Beach Wheelchair, Thanks to Foundation

Upper Getting New Beach Wheelchair, Thanks to Foundation

By Christopher South

Members of the Bradley Beach Patrol with one of the beach wheelchairs the DeSatnick Foundation makes available free to municipalities where they are needed.
DeSatnick Foundation
Members of the Bradley Beach Patrol with one of the beach wheelchairs the DeSatnick Foundation makes available free to municipalities where they are needed.

PETERSBURG – Upper Township will be receiving a new beach wheelchair in 2024, courtesy of the DeSatnick Foundation.

The Upper Township Committee recently passed a resolution accepting the chair, which is valued at about $1,800, according to Chad DeSatnick, president of the foundation.

“We are very grateful,” said township Administrator Gary DeMarzo.

DeMarzo said the beach wheelchairs work well in conjunction with Mobi-Mats and are supplemented by the motivation and kindness of the township’s lifeguards.

Township beach patrol chief Bill Handley said: “They’ve definitely helped us.”

Handley said Upper Township has five beach wheelchairs, and although they have never had all five out at one time, they have had four in use, leaving only one spare. He said the wheelchairs have proved to be really important, especially with the condition of the beaches prior to the recent replenishment.

“Last year was a funny year because of beach erosion,” he said. “We have two handicapped access paths, and one was not accessible.”

As a result, the beach patrol had to transport the wheelchairs to the access path.

“Generally we would keep them at Williams Avenue,” Handley said. “Putnam is the handicapped access, but Putnam has no beach access for vehicles. It was a little complicated, but this year it will be less.”

Some chairs have been kept in a shed at the beach in the 1400 block of Commonwealth Avenue, where there is no handicapped access, but the chairs are available if someone is already on the beach.

DeSatnick said the DeSatnick Foundation, which was formed about eight years ago, has offered beach wheelchairs from Monmouth to Cape May counties. He said the foundation has gifted four to eight beach wheelchairs each year since the formation of the foundation, because some municipalities don’t have it in their budgets to purchase these “tools,” as he called them.

The foundation recognizes the cost, he said, adding that replacing the wheels on a beach wheelchair is nearly as expensive as the chair. He said about half the cost is shipping.

DeSatnick said the foundation’s board looked at various ways to help people get to the water. “We found the wheelchairs are a good way to go,” he said.

He said the board has approved the purchase of 12 beach wheelchairs for the 2024 season, to be ordered soon and expected to arrive in four or five weeks.

The foundation is also hosting the Around the Cape Paddle, which features lifeguard boats, kayaks and paddleboards. DeSatnick said the starting and finishing point this year is the Nature Center of Cape May, where there will also be an after-party.

He said the foundation’s relationship with the nature center started when the center asked if it could get one of the beach wheelchairs to use for events it holds on harbor beaches.

“That was a different avenue,” DeSatnick said, adding that the foundation can gift a wheelchair to different organizations, such as the nature center. “Basically we can give to any organization with an off-road use, not just the beaches, but to anywhere they need adaptive equipment.”

The foundation, he said, gave grant money to an individual who was injured in Cumberland County, where there are some state and municipal parks with beaches.

DeSatnick’s involvement with supporting those who’ve suffered life-changing injuries started with his own spinal injury in 2001.

“Growing up in Cape May, our dad was a lifeguard, and I and Todd (his brother) were pretty familiar with the ins and outs of beach safety,” he said.

DeSatnick said things changed when the city received a beach replenishment that drastically altered the slope of the beach. He said the number of injuries along the shorebreak began to increase. Then in September 2001, DeSatnick had an accident while surfing off Poverty Beach.

“I rode in too close, and my board hit the shorebreak, and I went head first into shallow water,” he said.

Not initially aware of what happened, DeSatnick suffered fractures in the C6 and C7 vertebrae, resulting in an 11-hour surgery at Atlantic City Medical Center. During his therapy after the surgery he became aware of an organization called Life Rolls On, which aids surfers who have suffered spinal cord injuries.

The group’s signature event, “They Will Surf Again,” aims to get injured surfers back into the water to enjoy their sport. DeSatnick said that since 2008 the group has been hosting an event in New Jersey, generally in Wildwood on the first Sunday in August. He said the event helps bring awareness to spinal cord injuries in places where they are more prone to happen and in Cape May specifically.

“In 2012, we formed the DeSatnick Foundation, a 501c3, and this is our only mission – helping those who suffered spinal cord injuries,” he said.

DeSatnick said the foundation helps families in Atlantic, Cumberland, Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth counties, its outreach area, to defray the cost of treatment for spinal cord injuries, which can be astronomical.

For more information about the foundation, visit desatickfoundation.org, or find the organization on Facebook and Instagram. Donations can be made on the homepage PayPal.

Contact the reporter, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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