published Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Rice ‘absolutely’ sold on SPARC’s water day

Terri Rice was a passionate promoter of the Sports, Arts and Recreation of Chattanooga organization Saturday as she talked about what it has meant to her.

SPARC, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, held its 20th water sports day at the First Lutheran Church Camp at Possum Creek, and Rice was one of those who got her feet wet as a water skier.

She works for Tennessee’s Division of Rehabilitation Services as a rehab teacher for those with no or low vision. She does independent-living training.

“I teach them how to be blind,” Rice said, smiling. “I’m going through that myself.”

Originally from Mississippi, the former graphic artist came to Chattanooga from South Florida — “I like the mountains better,” she said — and is dealing with progressive vision loss.

“I have some light perception, but I can’t trust my vision anymore,” Rice said. “I also am hearing impaired but have two very good hearing aids. Fortunately, as my vision has gotten worse, hearing aids have gotten better.”

And SPARC has come into her life. Through the organization and its tie-in to the Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department’s therapeutic activities division, Rice has done tandem biking and kayaking this year — and now water skiing.

“This is my third time here, and I absolutely love it,” she said Saturday, “but it’s my first time to water ski — like I used to do. I got a lot of water up my nose; I didn’t stay up long. I’m in my 50s now and it’s more a problem of strength than vision, but this was such a great experience.

“SPARC and Chattanooga Parks and Recreation gives us our lives back,” Rice said. “They are incredible people. That’s another reason I love this town. The people who volunteer for things like this absolutely make us want to live.

“When we’re here, we can be so normal and feel young again.”

She plans to feel even younger by the third Saturday of July in 2012.

“I am going to get so in shape for this next year,” she said.

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