Crane Beach in Ipswich, a property of The Trustees of Reservations, is often recognized regionally and nationally as a favorite summer beach destination for people from near and far, but it can be the experience and recognition shared by one individual that holds the most meaning.
Alexandra Pecci, a Northshore native who now lives in Southern New Hampshire, and her daughter Chloe, are self-described "unabashed beach bums.” And as much as this duo loves trips to the beach, it’s not easy as Pecci’s daughter has spina bifida and cannot walk without assistance. “For her entire life, trips to the beach were incredibly difficult to orchestrate," notes Pecci. “Her walker doesn't roll over sand, and neither does anything else on wheels, including strollers. Instead, I would carry her and all of our things slowly and painfully across the sand dunes.”
On a beautiful day in July, Pecci and her daughter were prepared to improvise when they headed off to Crane Beach with friends. “I was floored when I saw a sign saying that transport was provided to disabled beachgoers,” she notes. “Larry, one of Crane's employees, was so cheerful, funny, and friendly as he helped us load our things into the back of the beach-mobile and drove me, with my daughter on my lap, down to the perfect spot on the sand.”
Thanks to a cooperating tide, the sand near the water was flat and hard, allowing Pecci’s daughter to use her walker to play on the beach, following her friends between the shore and beach blanket without any trouble. When the two were we were ready to head home, the lifeguard called for the beach buggie which drove them back to their car.
Pecci shared with Trustees staff, “I was nearly in tears of joy, happiness, and relief as we arrived on the beach yesterday. I simply cannot describe what this means to me. The beach is a place where we have always healed our souls, and it broke my heart to think we couldn't go anymore. Long, bumpy, stair-filled boardwalks and rolling sand dunes would have made the beach out of reach for Chloe. No more, thanks to the good people at Crane and The Trustees of Reservations. Crane will be our beach from now on.”
Happenstance or fate, just one day after the Pecci’s visit to Crane Beach, the beach received an unexpected delivery of a Mobi-chair – a floating beach wheelchair that provides an easy transition from the boardwalk to the beach to the water. Working with SMILE Mass (Small Miracles In Life Exist), a Massachusetts nonprofit dedicated to providing happy, healthy memories to families living with children or adults with disabilities, teenagers Ben and Sam Kateman raised and donated the money to purchase the chair through their Mitzvah Project, requesting that SMILE Mass place the chair on a North Shore beach. Thanks are also deserved to Kerrie Bates, Recreation Director for the town of Ipswich, who planted the seed and worked behind-the-scenes to help make this all possible.
"We were so pleased to receive such a heart warming message from Alex about her positive experience at Crane Beach with her daughter and one of our staff members," says Barbara Erickson, Trustees President and CEO. "The Trustees are committed to making universal access a priority at our properties and enhancing the visitor experience for all. We were absolutely thrilled when SMILE Mass contacted us the day after we heard from Alex and offered to so generously donate a Mobi-chair, creating yet another way for our visitors needing special assistance to make an easy transition from the boardwalk to the beach to the water."
Thanks to the thinking and generosity of a handful of individuals, coupled with the vison of a local nonprofit organization, a day of swimming at Crane Beach is now even more accessible for all. The Trustees of Reservations contacted Pecci to let her know of the donation and she commented, “How wonderful that the mobi-chair was donated! There really are lots of good people in the world.”
In addition to providing beachfront and swimming access for mobility-impaired visitors, Crane Beach is fully staffed with guest services representatives, rangers, lifeguards, and EMTs and other visitor amenities include the Crane Beach store featuring refreshments and merchandise, bathhouses with toilets and changing areas, as well as outside showers and picnic area.
For daily updates on the tides, parking, programs or weather, follow the beach on twitter @CraneBeachMass and friend them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/craneestate). You can also call the beach office at 978.356.4354, Monday – Friday, 9AM – 5PM or find information online at thetrustees.org/beach.
SMILE Mass is a 501c3 non-profit based in Sudbury, MA. The mission of SMILE Mass is to help families living with children and adults with disabilities create happy, healthy memories. Over the past three summers, SMILE Mass delivered 64 floating beach wheelchairs to public beaches on Cape Cod. SMILE Mass is now focusing on providing mobility access to other areas of Massachusetts and New England. In addition to the 65 floating beach wheelchairs currently placed on public beaches, SMILE Mass has six loaner beach wheelchairs that individuals can borrow, free of charge, if they are vacationing in any area where they need this accessibility. To learn more about SMILE Mass and the loaner beach wheelchairs visit www.smilemass.org.
This Story was submitted by Holly Hannaway of the Trustees of Reservations.