The value of social media and its ability to bring people together were front and center here on the island last weekend. On Saturday, a group of approximately 15 hearing-impaired adults gathered from around Marco Island and from as far away as Orlando. They were here to embark on a one-hour jet-ski adventure tour that departed from the Caxambas Boat Ramp courtesy of Wow – Marco Island Jet Ski Tours.
Barbie Nelson, a hearing-impaired person herself, met many others with a similar challenge in life through her personal Facebook page over the years. Since then, they have exchanged ideas and information, in addition to joining together for social events such as this weekend’s adventure on the water.
Just over 11% – 35 million people in the U.S. – are impacted by some type of hearing impairment. Some may be impaired from birth due to a genetic issue, while other causes can range from damage due to exposure to prolonged high noise levels, aging, severe pressure changes, drugs or injuries.
Nelson, who was assisted by her daughter Sammy Jo Nelson, worked to put together a fun outing for Saturday to get out on the water and then gather afterwards. The group was not deterred by the breezy, chilly conditions as they assembled at the boat launch facility at the south end of the island.
Barbie Nelson, originally from Racine, WI, attended the Wisconsin School for the Deaf from an early age, and has not let her hearing challenge limit her activities or running her own business. “We love getting our group together to show others that there should be no limitations to what we can accomplish if we put our hearts and minds into it,” signed Nelson with a big smile as her daughter translated.
Nelson’s daughter also acted as a go between, assisting by signing to communicate with the participants to ensure their understanding of the rules and safety procedures regarding their personal watercrafts. She worked with Marcos Ramos, tour guide for the group, to familiarize the attendees with the operation and safety provisions of the jet skis they would be operating.
The excitement level easily could be seen in the eyes of all those preparing to participate in the adventure as the time grew near, and they scampered aboard watercraft that were still on trailers in the parking lot at the Caxambas Boat Ramp. You could hear the excitement in their voices as they laughed and waved as they carefully entered into the water one by one and assembled in the water before taking off on their adventure.
If smiles were any indication of the success of the day, it appears the group had a wonderful time on the water as they steered their jet skis and disappeared among the mangroves.