BRIGHTON (CBS) – To see them rowing on the Charles River – arms pumping, backs aching, lungs nearly bursting – you would never know these athletes had any physical limitations.

But this group of people competing in this year’s Head of The Charles Regatta are participants in ParaRowing, which is formally known as adaptive rowing.

Read: Your Guide To The Head Of The Charles

One man has cerebral palsy and has difficulty walking.

Another rower is a woman with Multiple Sclerosis who cannot walk without a cane.

A second woman, Jaden Thoennes, has Spina Bifida and is confined to a wheel chair.

Jaden Thoennes prepares to head out on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

Jaden Thoennes prepares to head out on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

But on the water their disabilities are irrelevant.

“I think the one word that describes it the best is freedom,” Thoennes told WBZ-TV.

“It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever done, but that’s the high that I get from it.”

Jaden Thoennes rowing on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

Jaden Thoennes rowing on the Charles River. (WBZ-TV)

Priscilla Lowell, the pararower fighting MS, said “I can honestly say it has changed my life.”

“I think the hardest thing with anyone with a chronic disease is that you feel like you’re sidelined and I’m a believer in improbable dreams,” she told WBZ.

Their dreams have been realized through a program sponsored by Community Rowing in Brighton, the largest public access rowing organization in the country.

Ellen Minzner, Community Rowing’s Director of Outreach, says their mission is to allow all people to row, whether they have a disability or can’t afford a private rowing club.

To find out more, visit their website,


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