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Margaret Shippee, who was born and raised in Chicago, has traveled to many cities in the U.S. but she says none beat her hometown.

Nothing beats being on the water, too, and on Tuesday Shippee got a chance to take a cruise around the lakefront thanks to the Chicago Yacht Club.

“It’s very relaxing,” Shippee said. “I like being in the sun and having the wind in my hair and it’s a very scenic route.”

Margaret Shippee with St. Mary of Providence, at an annual event hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club, Tuesday, June 20th, 2017. More than 120 guests with special needs from Helping Hand Rehabilitation, Misericordia and St. Mary of Providence come to the Yacht Club for lunch and a parade-style cruise of 20 boats on Chicago’s lakefront. | James Foster|For the Sun-Times

Residents of Helping Hands Rehabilitation, Misericordia and St. Mary of Providence joined members of the Chicago Yacht Club on 20 boats for a ride along the lakefront that passed the Adler Planetarium and Navy Pier. The club, which has hosted the cruise for over two decades, invited over 120 people with special needs and their advisors for this year’s cruise.

Shippee was just one of the residents of St. Mary of Providence – a group home for women with developmental disabilities – to board one of the boats for the afternoon. Though the ride is one of many outings the women participate in, Sister Darlene Johnson, who chaperoned the St. Mary of Providence group, said that the ride is one of the most popular.

“We’ve been doing this for as many years as [the club] has been having it,” Johnson said. “There’s something peaceful about being on the water and it’s always a beautiful day that they really look forward to.”

Sister Darlene Johnson with the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, at an annual event hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club, Tuesday, June 20th, 2017. More than 120 guests with special needs from Helping Hand Rehabilitation, Misericordia and St. Mary of Providence come to the Yacht Club for lunch and a parade-style cruise of 20 boats on Chicago’s lakefront. | James Foster|For the Sun-Times

Yacht members volunteer their time and their boats for the day’s festivities, which ended with a safety demonstration by members of the Chicago Fire Department.

Lisa Curcio Gaston, a member of the Chicago Yacht Club, owns In Recess, a 52-foot long yacht that she’s had for 12 years. Before taking part in the cruise, she was the chairwoman of the event. In the ’90s, when she took over, the club was inviting around 110 people from three organizations.

“Our guests are always really excited about the day and we love the event and seeing them enjoy themselves,” Gaston said. “After it’s all over we’re smiling just as much as they are.”

Guests from the Helping Hand Center of Countryside on board the “Lake House” at an annual event hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club, Tuesday, June 20th, 2017. More than 120 guests with special needs from Helping Hand Rehabilitation, Misericordia and St. Mary of Providence come to the Yacht Club for lunch and a parade-style cruise of 20 boats on Chicago’s lakefront. | James Foster|For the Sun-Times

 

The goal, beyond making sure people are comfortable and that they’re having a good time, is to help people with disabilities feel part of society, Elena Mirochnik, chairwoman of the boat ride, said.

“They are always so happy to see the boats and to do the ride,” said Mirochnik, who is from Ukraine. “Where I come from, (people with disabilities) used to be put away, but it’s different here. They’re able to work and go on boats and be functional members of society. That’s amazing.”

The Chicago Fire Department’s Engine Co. #2 shoots water canons for the enjoyment of an annual event hosted by the Chicago Yacht Club, Tuesday, June 20th, 2017. More than 120 guests with special needs from Helping Hand Rehabilitation, Misericordia and St. Mary of Providence come to the Yacht Club for lunch and a parade-style cruise of 20 boats on Chicago’s lakefront. | James Foster|For the Sun-Times

The Chicago Yacht Club hosts more than 120 guests with special needs from Helping Hand Rehabilitation, Misericordia and St. Mary of Providence in a parade-style cruise of 20 boats on ChicagoÕs lakefront Tuesday, June 20th, 2017. | James Foster|For the Sun-Times