S.E.A. Campaign donates six new beach wheelchairs to Okaloosa County
Okaloosa Island, Fla. - Accessibility to the beach is not always available to everyone but, a new initiative, called "S.E.A," which stands for Safety, Environment and Activities is changing that.
A local group is making it easier for everyone to get on the sand.
It's not always a simple walk to the shoreline. Especially for those who might have disabilities that limit their mobility. Thanks to a large donation, life guard in Okaloosa County can help.
"The wheelchair program has really taken off over the past few years and so, the wheelchairs we have existing, before these new ones, have probably had thousands of miles on them," said Rich Huffnagle, Okaloosa County Beach Safety, Chief.
Once the wheelchairs get worn down, they're retired to what lifeguards call, "the wheelchair graveyard."
"We partnered with public safety and sat down with them and said what are some of your needs here along our beaches," said Misty Rae Ruthrauff, Saltwater Restaurants, Marketing Director. After seeing the graveyard, they said, "Okay, out with the old and in with the new!" "The dilapidated beach chairs that they had were just unexceptional and it was sad to us to know they were turning away visitors and locals away," explained Ruthrauff.
Their $11,000 donation bought six brand new wheelchairs.
One local told us, he has seen first hand, the struggles of someone with limited mobility try to make it to the coastline and it's not easy. Now, these new wheelchairs will help.
"My cousin is paralyzed from the waist down from Spine Epithelia and I have a friend with Multiple Sclerosis and uh, it allows them to go out to the beach," shared Brent Buffkin, Destin Local.
"I've had everywhere from a kids first time to the beach that has a disability to a 90 plus year old who it's going to be their last time to Cancer patients, there's just thousands of stories connected to these wheel chairs," said Huffnagle.
If you or someone you know needs assistance getting to the shoreline, call (850) 259-5874. Now beach goers anywhere on Okaloosa Island, can get a wheelchair within 5 to 15 minutes. Free of charge, all day long.