In 1969, Scott Taylor took his first scuba lesson at the encouragement of his high school swim coach. Fifty years later, the self-proclaimed “bubble head” is still at it—and empowering lives in the process.
Scott and his wife Lynn, the owners of A-1 Scuba & Travel Aquatics Center in Littleton have been sharing their love of the water with Craig Hospital patients since the late 1970s.
Following a stint in the military, Scott became a physical therapy aide at Craig, where he says he became enthralled with the institution and the people. “About that time, I thought that maybe people with disabilities could try scuba,” he says. With the help of his diving instructor-turned-father-in-law, he would occasionally take patients to dive at local pools.
After Scott graduated from PT school and came back to work at Craig in the 80s, he and Therapeutic Recreation Therapist Carol Huserik formalized Craig’s Adaptive Scuba program. They began hosting a periodic dive class at Craig’s therapy pool, and then later at the bigger, deeper pool at Taylor’s dive shop.
The program has flourished over the years, and though Scott no longer practices as a PT, his commitment to Craig remains. A-1 Scuba currently provides patients with free monthly introductory Try Scuba Diving experiences and periodic opportunities to either dive or snorkel at the Denver Downtown Aquarium at no cost.
The instructors and volunteers have received specialized training from the Handicapped Scuba Association and are experienced in helping people with disabilities including spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, and amputations discover the freedoms and wonders of the underwater world.
“Our desire is to introduce patients to what I call the ‘great equalizer,’” says Scott. “It’s visual, it’s liberating, and it takes you to really cool places.”
In addition to the Colorado diving options, Craig’s Adventure Program and A-1 have partnered since 2004 to take patients on an annual scuba trip to the Caribbean.
Craig graduate Allison Mallory attended the 2017 trip to Cayman Brac. She found that the trip showed her that she can still have adventures post-injury and still push herself.
“The scuba diving trip was about much more than scuba diving,” she says. “It’s about problem-solving, finding ways to be adventurous and living life to the fullest without the use of my legs.”
Divers will have a chance to win a similar adventure at the 36th Annual A-1 Scuba May Event on May 17-19. The weekend sale will include presentations, programs, activities, and a raffle to benefit Craig’s Therapeutic Recreation Program and the Arapahoe Sertoma Club.
Scott estimates that the raffle—administered by the Sertoma Club under the club’s state raffle license—has raised more than $40,000 for Craig over the years.
The 2019 raffle first prize is a seven-night scuba trip for two to Cozumel including hotel accommodations at Hotel Cozumel and Dive Paradise. The trip includes accommodations, three meals daily, snacks and drinks. Certified divers also will enjoy five days of two tank boat diving provided by Dive Paradise. A second prize winner will receive $500. Tickets for the raffle are available online or Saturday and Sunday at the event, and the drawing will be held on May 19 at 3 p.m. Winners for this drawing need not be present to win.
For Scott, the most rewarding thing about his volunteerism and philanthropy is introducing patients to an activity that might change their mindset.
“What I’ve learned from Craig’s Therapeutic Recreation Department is the idea of “flipping switches” and showing people that there are still ways to enjoy their new body,” he says.
“It’s really gratifying to see a smiling face and laughter from someone who hasn’t laughed in a long time.”