CharterAbility is a charity that focuses on giving people with disabilities positive experiences with boat cruises. They use pontoon boats designed to accommodate wheelchairs and other physical disabilities. Their two boats are named after two late volunteers of the organization – Terry Bayley and Jeff Sloan. All their boat rides are free to ensure guests have a pleasant and worry-free experience.
Stephen Cull started CharterAbility in 2003 after being invited to Lake Muskoka by a friend two years prior. He met Paul Madsen in the Intensive Care Unit at Sunnybrook Hospital in 1991. Stephen had gotten into a tobogganing accident that left him a quadriplegic – while Paul had gotten into a car accident. Their accidents brought the two together and resulted in Paul inviting Stephen to his cottage on Lake Muskoka in 2001. Paul had a wheelchair-accessible pontoon boat, which was the inspiration for his idea. Stephen ended up buying Paul’s boat to start up his charity.
He decided to bring his Aunt Peggy along for the cottage trip, knowing she had been an avid sailor all her life. Aunt Peggy knew that boats required being climbed into, and she wasn’t physically able to that anymore at age 85. She declined Stephen’s offer, but when he explained the pontoon boat was wheelchair accessible and that she could walk right on, she changed her mind enthusiastically.
Seeing Aunt Peggy so happy on the boat caused Stephen to want to make others feel the same way. Specifically, he wanted individuals with disabilities to enjoy relaxing boat rides. Knowing there were not as many opportunities for those with disabilities as there was for those who are physically abled, Stephen decided to create some. Stephen Cull says, “I tell people – ‘listen if you can’t give me a reason why you need a free boat ride, I’ll find one for you!’”
CharterAbility hosts a fundraiser every year, but this year will look a little
different. Stephen Cull explains. “Every fundraiser, we get 7 or 8 of the local restaurants to donate appetizers, and we have whiskey and vodka samples and a great band, and we just have a party and raise money.”
They will be hosting a virtual fundraiser over three days this month. You can find all the merchandise available for auction at CharterAbility Spring Auction, starting May 11th and run until May 13th. All funds and proceeds will create more opportunities for disabled individuals and continue supporting the free boat rides and donations to other charities.
For more information, visit CharterAbility.