“Diving in the ocean is something I honestly felt like I would never do. Now that I have, I can’t wait to go again.”
You’d be underselling Jon Schuetz’s demeanor—following his adaptive scuba diving adventure to the Cayman Islands—by describing his unmistakable joy as “all smiles.” Jon, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2007 and has mentored spinal cord injury rehabilitation clients since 2011, leveraged his infectious enthusiasm to become QLI’s foremost ambassador for adaptive scuba diving — a growing piece of our rapidly expanding sports and recreation initiative.
This ambassadorship culminated in a trip to Cayman Brac in June with the Dive Pirates Foundation, a not-for-profit public charity that connects individuals with disabilities to the support, equipment, training and travel necessary for scuba diving. Their vision: create a community of disabled divers to overcome any obstacle in order to explore the world of scuba.
“In every decision they make,” Jon said, “Dive Pirates want to include everyone they can. Even on our trip, the Dive Pirates had the capability to accommodate essentially any need. Amputees, vision impairments, injuries — a range of conditions, you name it.”
The week-long international trip gave Jon the chance to see the world from 60 feet underwater. Amongst rainbow-colored coral reefs teeming with wildlife, sites of underwater sculptures, and even the wracked husk of a sunken naval frigate splayed across the ocean floor, the effects of Jon’s injury were afterthoughts.
Jon and QLI exercise assistant Amiey Elsasser first connected to the Dive Pirates Foundation in 2014 through local scuba training facility DiVentures, a regular partner of QLI’s adaptive sports team.
“The DiVentures team had experience working with adaptive diving. Jon was even part of the first group of adaptive divers QLI had training at the facility,” said Amiey, who accompanied Jon on the trip as an assistive diving partner.
Working with—and introducing QLI rehab clients to—the DiVentures team for over two years, Jon honed his diving skills and worked toward his scuba certification, aiming to lead other injury survivors into a purposeful, gratifying new life path. He applied to the Dive Pirates program in 2015, not expecting to be accepted into the upcoming roster of divers.
In January 2016, he and Amiey received the call.
It’s the kind of experience Jon can’t wait to share with others, and
the caliber of program he and Amiey have now begun actively recruiting for. In fact, QLI is already reloading its adaptive diving roster, introducing clients and rehabilitation alumni to the limitless possibilities scuba offers.
“Our hope is that the program grows here at QLI,” Jon said, “If I had just gotten injured, I would go out of my way to look for rehabilitation that offers scuba diving. It’s freedom and travel, it breaks down huge barriers for people just coming away from injury.”
For more about the organizations involved in this story, visit the links below:
(Photography in this story is used courtesy of Dive Pirates Foundation)
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