QE2 Activity Center Launches New Wheelchair Accessible Boat
A WHEELCHAIR-accessible boat has been launched at the QE2 Activity Center at River Hamble Country Park in memory of the man who inspired the entire centre.
The Peter Gardiner will get thousands more people with additional needs out on the water.
The boat, built by CML Ltd in Marchwood, was officially launched with the usual breaking of a bottle of champagne by two of Peter’s sisters, Kate Dawes and Sally Whitcombe.
ALSO READ: Obituary – Peter Gardiner inspired the QE2 activity center
Peter, who died a year ago aged 66, was born at a time when it was common for babies with Down syndrome to be institutionalized and their life expectancy was only 20 to 30 years.
But Peter stayed home with his loving family, parents Phyl and Chris and older sisters Elizabeth, Kate and Sally and took part in activities such as canoeing, sailing and horse riding.
For the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, Eastleigh Borough Council asked residents to submit project ideas and Peter’s father Chris, who had worked for YMCAs across the country, including including Fairthorne Manor, offered an activity center for people with disabilities. The center was opened in 1978 by Princess Margaret.
Being able to get afloat on the River Hamble has been a mainstay of the centre’s work, with canoes, kayaks and powerboats on offer.
At the end of 2020 it became apparent that the center needed to replace its aging pontoon boat and a call was made. £40,000 was raised in just four months.
Center director Phil Oates said: “We have received tremendous support from a wide range of funders. We are especially grateful to the families of four pillars of the center, who have sadly passed away in the past two years. Bequests and donations in memory not only of Peter, but also of Godfrey Olson, Caroline Oates and Helga Baker have all flowed to the boat.
“We have received donations from several grant trusts.
“The Hamble Valley Rotary Club has adopted the QE2 Activity Center as one of its charities and through a sponsored South Downs Way walk has raised £15,000.
“We organized our own sponsored walk during the lockdown – from QE2 to Timbuktu – a few dozen of our regular visitors walked the equivalent of the distance from Hedge End in Mali between them.
“The boat will be used on the River Hamble, alongside our existing wheelyboat, the James Male, and our fleet of canoes and kayaks. This will allow us to continue to engage children and adults with disabilities in meaningful and fun activities for many years to come.
“And it will ensure that the name of Peter Gardiner, the center’s inspiration, will be long remembered.”