Rise Up and Above
By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ron Jenkins
Greta Baksa almost lost her infant daughter to a brain virus when Hannah was a year old.
“She spent a long time in the ICU, and we were told by one nurse that if she survived, she’d be a ‘vegetable.’ ’’
Hannah — her mother calls her “Bean” — proved everyone wrong by surviving with the help of a lot of physical therapy. She lost all motor function and is nonverbal, but Hannah is now a happy 11-year-old with an adventurous streak.
“She’s fearless,” says Greta, who discovered RISE Adaptive Sports last year while attending an event at a skateboard park in The Colony, where the Baksa family lives. Everything changed as Hannah discovered watersports. The Baksas became regular participants in 2021, visiting Lake Grapevine two to three times a week in the summer. “Since she can’t stand on skis, the equipment RISE has is perfect,” says Greta. “She went from being tentative to trying to adjust her own ski straps to hurry up and get on the water.”
RISE, a Grapevine-based nonprofit, started in 2007 and has grown in ambition and scope. Early on, the water program consisted of mainly personal watercraft, canoes and sit-on-top kayaks. Today, thanks to generous sponsorships and donations, participants have access to adaptive equipment for watersports including skiing, wakesurfing, wakeboarding and parasailing. Off the water, there’s wheelchair skating, football and more. All ages are welcome, and all activities are free.
Primarily run by an army of trained volunteers, the nonprofit provides opportunities to help that both move and inspire those who get involved. Kennedy Bowen, a Southlake Carroll graduate who now attends Ole Miss, volunteered with RISE (she’s also a Special Olympics coach) when she was in high school. Her mother, Tiffany, is a longtime RISE volunteer. “It’s such an incredible experience and inspiring as you get to see how much the participants want to try things they’ve not been able to do before,” Kennedy says.
“All the volunteers are fantastic,” says Greta. “Everyone is trained to make the participants feel safe, so I know Hannah is in good hands. We’ve met the greatest people and had amazing opportunities. It has truly improved our quality of life.”