From being selected to be on & compete with the 2018 USA Water Ski Show Team at the 4th IWWF Show Ski World Championships, Sept. 7-9, 2018 in Ontario, Canada, to winning the highly honorable Betty Bonifay Award (Outstanding Female Show Skier) at the 2018 Southern Regional Show Ski Championships! In 2016 and 2017 she was the Girls 3 Barefoot National Overall Champion...could she be any more impressive? YES! Grace loves everything about water skiing and just spending time on the water. She told us she was just so moved when she had the opportunity to water ski with her mom, Wendy, who uses a wheelchair. That day became one of her most favorite memories! After this experience, and with the help and support of parents, Andrew and Wendy Petzold, Grace founded Graceful Wakes, Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. She wanted to provide the opportunity to water ski to individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, many of whom normally don’t have the equipment or resources to do so.
Okay, I need a tissue now.. Let's dive in with Graceful Wakes!
Our favorite thing about sharing #LifeOnTheWater is seeing the reactions of the individuals when they are able to experience the thrill and freedom of water skiing for the first time. Many times, their hands go flying up in the air, a smile spreads across their face, and they let out squeals of glee. They can’t wait for their next turn to water ski, and many have returned the following year to ski with us again!
We also love seeing the joy brought to the family members of the participants as they see their loved one being able to participate in something they may have not thought possible. Many times, these family members begin to cry tears of joy, especially the parents of the young children.
When we are able to see the pure joy radiating from a new skier’s face or the emotions coming from their family members, all of our volunteers feel joy as well, and it makes all of our hard work totally worth it.
One of Graceful Wakes’ biggest accomplishments was organizing the adaptive part of the 2017 Chain of Records in which we set the NSSA record for the most adaptive water skiers pulled behind a boat at one time… a total of 9 skiers!!! This was a big moment for us and the skiers, and we couldn’t have down it without all of our amazing side skiers and volunteers.
Another big accomplishment of Graceful Wakes is that over the past 3 years, we have gotten many skiers with disabilities out on the water for their first time ever through the adaptive water ski clinics we host. Being able to create the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to be able to water ski is what Graceful Wakes is all about.
When we were brainstorming names for our organization, we knew we wanted something related to water skiing or being on the water. Somehow, my dad came up with the name Graceful Wakes. At first, I was a little hesitant of the name because my name is Grace, and I didn’t really want my own name in the name for our organization. After a couple of days though, the name Graceful Wakes kind of just stuck, and we all loved it!
(Check out the awesome footage below)
We host adaptive water ski clinics in Northern Wisconsin because the Northwoods holds a special place in all of my family members’ hearts; it is where I first learned to water ski, and every summer, my family spends a couple of weeks there.
In addition, Eagle River, Wisconsin is also significant to some of my fellow members on the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team (Winter Haven, Florida). Many of them who come up every year to help with the clinic have roots tying back to Eagle River as it is the place they grew up skiing with the Chain Skimmers Water Ski Show Team.
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