The first thing you need to know is that Sarah Everhart Skeels is the coolest. (If you try to capture how cool she is in one really strong opening sentence, you will be unsatisfied with the understatement all of your word choices and eventually just settle on the coolest.) The second thing you need to know is that she’s probably going to the Olympics, and we’re going to help her get there.
When I think of Sarah, I imagine her parked in her chair next to the huge grey couch in my family’s ski condo, wearing a puffy green jacket and a black hat. She laughs a lot and moves her legs around with her hands. I always try to stake out the spot on the couch closest to where she’s sitting, because I only get so much Sarah time nowadays and I really want to hear her opinion on every single one of the conflicts going on in my life. Never let a boy take your power, she always says, or anyone for that matter. But don’t be afraid to trust. (Seriously, she just throws out gems like that over dinner. Sometimes I wish I could take notes.)
I guess Sarah is technically my parents’ friend—they met about sixteen years ago teaching adaptive skiing at Loon Mountain—but I really like to think that she’s my friend too. More than a friend, even. (Does that sound romantic? So be it.) She’s like an aunt and a guidance counselor and a well-timed kick in the ass (as needed) all rolled up into one. I’ve been able to talk to her about boys and existential crises in various corners of my family’s ski condo for as long as I can remember, and she is wise as shit, guys. She’s wise and she’s funny and she’s strong and she has so many cool hats.
Sarah experienced a spinal cord injury in 1990, and she started sailing in 1994. I was just texting with her to figure out how exactly to describe her mobility. (My mom always says that Sarah does more with 1.5 fully functional limbs than most people do with 4, but I always forget which 1.5 limbs are the most mobile ones.) In Sarah’s words, she has “pretty limited movement” in her right shoulder and arm, full movement in her left arm, and no movement below the waist.
These details are important to her story, I suppose, but writing about the “limitations” of Sarah’s injury feels more than irrelevant. They simply don’t exist.
If you’ve been following my blogs from the beginning, you may remember that Sarah took my mom and I sailing on a particularly adventurous leg of our 2013 yoga road trip. If you weren’t one of those twelve readers, here’s the short version: my mom and I went out on a sailboat with Sarah, her husband Brian, and her daughter Ellie. (Brian and Ellie rock really hard too. They’ll get their odes next week.) My mom and I were terrible at sailing, Sarah and Brian were fantastic at sailing, we all managed to duck in time when the wooden-pole-thing swung from one side of the boat to the other, and now Sarah has a very real chance at sailing in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Ehem, let me repeat that last bit in case you missed it. THE SUMMER FUCKING 2016 OLYMPICS. SARAH IS PROBABLY GOING TO SAIL IN RIO.
(Apologies to both of my grandmothers and all readers under seventeen years of age for the language, but something about that statement just demands expletives.)
Sarah and her equally cool sailing partner, Cindy Walker, are the only all-female team competing for the Olympic bid. They have the least physical mobility of any team in the competition. Their non-profit organization, Good Karma Racing, aims to promote the participation of women with disabilities in sailing—and what better way is there to do that than to help two kickass women take their talents to the top of an Olympic podium?
Before I started writing this post, I Googled “Sarah Everhart Skeels.” (Sarah—have you done this lately?! Kind of creepy, I know, but the first six pages of hits are actually positive articles about you. I don’t even think Jennifer Lawrence has that kind of PR power.) With the help of this comprehensive research strategy, I’ve compiled a list of hats (metaphorical this time, but still cool) that Sarah has worn:
- Lecturer at Tufts University Boston School for Occupational Therapy
- Professor in the Behavior and Social Sciences Department at Brown University
- Research Consultant with the New England Regional Spinal Cord Injury Model System and Health Disability Institute (based at Boston University)
- Member of the RI Governor’s Commission for People with Disabilities, Chairperson of the Employment Committee
- 2nd Vice President of the Board of Directors of New England Disabled Sports
- Member of the Board of Directors of the Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Regatta
- Chairperson of the US Sailing Committee for Sailors with Disabilities
- Hilarious and down-to-earth mom, wife, and friend
- OLYMPIC MEDAL CONTENDER
In addition to the coolness of both her literal and metaphorical hats, Sarah tends to speak in unpretentious proverb. (See: “Never let a boy take your power,” “You can’t change the wind but you can adjust your sails,” “I’m actually really tall, you know,” etc.) When polled via iMessage, a group of her closest friends also wanted our readers to know that Sarah is supportive, witty, and above all, humble. She is an immensely powerful advocate and ally. And we all would’ve said these things before she got all famous and close to the Olympics, I swear.
My family is hosting a little soiree with Sarah and Cindy on Thursday, November 5th to help raise money and awareness for the Good Karma cause. If you live in the Greater Nashua area and are interested in attending, check out our event on Facebook. (Unless you’re a creepy cyber stalker. I realize that there’s no real way to prevent creepy cyber stalkers from reading this, but if you do or ever have identified as a creepy cyber stalker, please don’t come to our party.)
If you love the cause as much as we do but are unable to attend a fun and informative soiree that will definitely involve cookies and beer, you can check out Good Karma Racing’s website and Facebook page. (You won’t regret it.) You can also donate directly to the team here!
Sarah—I know you’ve probably hated the Sarah-centric nature of this post, but you’ve earned all of this praise and then some. Thanks for always reminding me how powerful I am.
Brian, Cindy, and all others involved with Good Karma Racing—sail on. I’d tell you to make us proud, but you already have.