Diving in with Stay-Focused

More
than memories were made when Roger Muller and his brother, a paraplegic Vietnam
veteran, went diving off Grand Cayman 10 years ago.

Inspired
by his experience with his brother, Mr. Muller founded Stay-Focused, a
non-profit organisation that gives young people with disabilities the
opportunity to become certified divers.

Dive In

Most
of the young men and women who participate in Stay-Focused have been disabled all
their lives, and have been competing in sports just as long.

“We
work with coaches and doctors in the States to identify kids with disabilities
who are already competing in sports,” Mr. Muller explained.

From
wheelchair basketball to track and field, these young men and women have always
held true to the message central to Stay-Focused.

“The
name of the organisation is the central message: You need to stay focused. No
matter what challenges you face, you need to stay focused,” said Mr. Muller.

Since
it was founded in 2004, Stay-Focused has enabled more than 45 teens with
disabilities to become certified SCUBA divers.

Even
though these young people consistently demonstrate their abilities in athletic
competitions, diving gives them a sense of freedom unlike any other.

“Whenever
you hear about people with disabilities diving, the word that comes to mind is
freedom,” said Mr. Muller, “and that’s why I started the programme.”

Mr.
Muller explained that becoming a certified diver in the Cayman Islands is an
experience that gives the participants more confidence, higher self-esteem,
and, to a certain degree, a healthy dose of bragging rights.

“Being
able to say … ‘I’m a certified SCUBA diver’, that’s something that most of
their friends are not,” he said.

Stay-Focused in the Community

Stay-Focused
has done more than build the self-esteem and confidence of the participants,
however. The organisation has also worked hard to make people in Cayman more
aware of the potential of people with disabilities.

“Two
of our guys, to date, are the only wheelchair athletes to have competed in the
Cayman Islands Marathon,” said Mr. Muller. “There were no wheelchairs in the
Cayman Islands Marathon until we showed up in 2008.”

In
their efforts to promote the abilities of disabled people, the organisation
works with local Special Olympians, the Sunrise Adult Training Centre and the
Lighthouse School.

The
organisation also aims to spread awareness within the local community of the
challenges that people with disabilities face when the appropriate resources,
such as parking spots, bathroom stalls, ramps and elevators, are not made
available or are misused by others.

Mr.
Muller said that people with disabilities still have trouble accessing certain
buildings and facilities in Cayman, especially older establishments.

However,
Mr. Muller said that he has seen many improvements since the organisation first
started, and that Cayman is still the perfect place to host the programme.

“It’s
the best decision I’ve ever made,” he said. “I’ve never thought about doing it
somewhere else.”

Members
of the public and the business community have consistently supported the
programme by providing services and donating to the cause.

“The
physical excellence of the diving environment here … combined with the
support that we get here, makes it perfect,” he said.

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