SMITHVILLE, Mo. — It was a fun day on the water at Smithville Lake Friday as a group of people with disabilities got a chance to go water skiing.
Midwest Adaptive Sports provided boats, equipment and dozens of trained volunteers to help people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities go water skiing.
Participant Ariyon Smith drove in with a friend from Tulsa for the event for his time. With the help of volunteers with him in the water, he got up on an adaptive sit ski on his first try.
"Man, so fun, so fun," Smith said after his first ride around the lake. "It's a workout. I'm ready to go back again."
Smith said his life changed forever in 2015 when he was shot and had to learn how to live life in a wheelchair.
"Just coming from being active and then your life is just changed just like that, and being in a wheelchair and still trying to figure out what you're going to do with your life," Smith said.
People like Smith are the reason why dozens of water ski-loving volunteers donate their time, boats and equipment for the Day at the Lake event.
Organizer Tom Knaus said every person there does it to give someone a bit of their freedom back.
"It's a great feeling, especially for the first-timers," Knaus said. "It's great to see that smile on their face and just that feeling of freedom."
Leslie Livingston drove in from Tulsa and calls this event her Christmas.
"Let me tell you, the first time I skied up here, I started crying," Livingston said.
Livingston had been skiing her whole life until she lost her left leg from the knee down in a motorcycle accident six years ago. She said adaptive sports have been her saving grace.
Any chance she gets, she's spreading the word about the Day at the Lake event and hoping to get more people out on the water.
"I just want more people to know because so many people don't get out because they think they can't, you know, I don't let my wheelchair stop me," Livingston said.
It's a similar outlook for Smith, who has a message for others going through an experience like his.
"Just because you're in a wheelchair, your life is not over," Smith said. "You can accomplish anything you want to accomplish, and don't give up."