After a tragic loss, a Lake Houston man has built a new life teaching people with disabilities how to waterski

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Roger Randall works seven days a week like many other families, but he doesn’t do it to make ends meet. He spends his Mondays through Fridays building new facilities for his charity and it all turns into some of the most ecstatic fun and joy imaginable for the weekend mission – serving the disabled.

On weekends, his friends and clients put aside their wheelchairs, braces and crutches to mount adaptive gear and ski the waters of Lake Houston with Randall and his Texas Adaptive Aquatics volunteers.

For 33 years, Randall has built a name for himself and made this valuable work his life of service, but his journey has not been easy.

It was the untimely death of her fiancé that pushed her in the right direction and likely saved her own life from ruin.
The Huffman resident runs a non-profit organization that provides water sports for people with disabilities.

“We take them waterskiing, get them out of their wheelchairs, braces and crutches and take them out on the water behind the boat and teach them how to waterski,” he said proudly.

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The 501(c)3 has all the adaptive equipment that allows them to get into the water safely.

“We provide everything and it’s completely free for people with disabilities,” Randall said.

He grew up in the St. Louis area, but added, “I got to Texas as soon as I could,” he laughed.

His sister moved to Texas in the 80s and the 17-year-old came to spend the summer with her and never returned. He got a job and started a life full of twists and turns.

He started the adaptation program in Atlanta in 1985. He moved to Houston in 1989. Shortly after, he was taken aback by the death of his fiancé in a terrible car accident.

“I hit a Y in the road and had to decide what I was going to do,” he said. “I started the program and it was a great way to help me not think about what happened and stay focused and upright.”

Soon after, one of his sister’s friends in St. Louis, a member of the Busch family, helped him with a great blessing.

“Anheuser-Busch offered to help us if we got our 501(c)3 documents,” he said.

It was like a flash of hope and potential.

He went to see a friend of his who was a lawyer and who helped him set up the charity. Today, their partnership with Anheuser-Busch and Silver Eagle has grown and continues to this day.

“Equipment, gas, boats all cost money and that was a big help,” he said. Before that, he had a lucrative job cutting custom steel for machine shops and fabricators. Her earnings helped fund her travels across the country by organizing tailored events. Now they are focused solely on Texas with events in Huffman, Tyler and Moody Gardens.

The busier schedule turned her dream into a full-time job. For 33 years, he has been a mainstay on the water helping people with disabilities and teaching them to ski.

They purchased property not far from where the Lake Houston Brewery built their facility and for years lived a comfortable life helping others until August 25, 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit havoc on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

“The lake rose about 14 feet and destroyed our lodge, our offices, our store, it destroyed everything,” a dejected Randall said.

The facilities were the work of Randall and his volunteers built over nearly three decades.

“We pulled the rug out from under us,” he said. “Harvey just destroyed us.”

Computers, furniture, he lost everything, but there was a sign that he had to continue his work.

“Adapted ski gear can obviously get wet, so we washed it and were good to go,” said the resilient owner.

It took two or three days before they could return. When they arrived, Randall said it was a total mess.

“It looked like someone just picked up the store, shook it and put it down,” he described. “He didn’t just float, he knocked it all over.”

He took care of the ugly slab of rock, wet carpet and silt left behind. The large office was four feet of water, as was the shop. The pavilion where the kitchen, dining room and wheelchair toilet were located contained six feet of water.

The bad news: no insurance.

“We are now bouncing back and building a new facility on higher ground,” he said.

He didn’t have time to be depressed.

The three new acres are right on the lake near the lake patrol and on much higher ground than the previous location and the best news was that it had been donated to the non-profit.

No sooner had they purchased the land and cleared the old space than they were hit again by another unlikely roadblock.

They were closed for a year after the COVID pandemic. Like everyone else, they suffered from the confinements. Many of his clients were high risk, but again, his business was also at risk of catastrophic bankruptcy.

“We were very lucky,” he said. “We had just completed our major fundraiser and it helped us through the pandemic.”

A full year without skiing was a tough pill to swallow, but Randall and his volunteers didn’t sit idly by either.

“We were so lucky. I spent those days working on the new facility with volunteers,” he said.

Their priority was to get the wheelchair accessible restrooms built first. Randall said they had ADA requirements to meet.

“There are wheelchair-accessible portable toilets, but it’s way too hot for them to be there, especially right now,” he said.

They have finished the framing and may need help with tipping the sheets, installing the flooring and doing some painting.

Once the old property has been sold, they will then work on building a new lodge with a commercial kitchen and dining area for people with disabilities.

The old property, he says, is a beautiful space. The structures around them come back and build on stilts near the lake with stunning views.

For now they are still moving out of the old facility until the old property is sold. They will use the proceeds from the sale to build the remaining facilities in the new location.

They take August but will return to the skis at Moody Gardens in Galveston for a September 10 event.

Fundraising events are scheduled in the spring, but customers can donate online at taasports.org.

The joy for Randall now is seeing so many of the kids they started with who have grown into adults. They also have newcomers to the program and once they’re on the water, they’re hooked.

“They’re really scared at first, but once they figure it out they’re ready to go again,” he smiled. “That next time they say, ‘Let’s go!’ »

He said the water can be intimidating, especially for those who have been in a wheelchair.

“It takes them out of their comfort zone to do it, but once they have it they can do anything. It’s amazing to see the transformation. The best medicine in the world,” he said.

With a few dozen to 30 attendees, that can be a handful.

“We’re going to be on the water for most of the day and we really need some extra hands to help us out,” he said. Randall said they provide on-the-job training for volunteers and can use anyone from 13 to 80 in good health.

“They don’t even have to swim. We will teach them what to do,” he said.

When he’s not pounding 2x4s on the new location, he’s cleaning bathrooms, writing grants for the organization, planning fundraisers, or looking for other opportunities to help people. disabilities to practice the sport he loves.

It’s hard to say who’s more different from the fun on the water, but Randall has no plans to slow down or stop despite the odds he’s overcome.

“It’s my life’s work,” he said humbly.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com

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