HARRY HORGAN Accessibility Pioneer
In the early 1980s, young Newport, Rhode Island, sailor Harry Horgan was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He was 22. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he got motivated. Harry had two immediate goals:
walking with leg braces, and skiing. He struggled with walking but, using adaptive
equipment, easily mastered skiing. “It
was the same exhilaration I felt when I
was able-bodied,” he said. Then he had
an idea: Why not do this with sailing?
In 1986, he started a summer sports
program and a nonprofit organization in
Newport called Shake-A-Leg. Its objective: to help others overcome devastating
injuries, largely through sailing. Horgan used his insight to help design an adaptive
sailboat, rigged to accommodate disabled sailors, called Freedom Independence.
In 1990, Horgan moved Shake-A-Leg to Miami, Florida, to start a year-round
program. Today, the Shake-A-Leg Miami (SALM) Community Watersports Center
serves not only people with disabilities but disadvantaged children and their families,
veterans, and others. It offers programs centered around sailing and watersports in
and around Biscayne Bay and has inspired similar non-profits around the country.
Harry, now in his 50s, is the organization’s executive director – still working hard to
make dreams come true.
Master Of Retail
How do you turn a garage-based, mail-order rope business into a national chain of marine stores?
The answer: Redefine the marine buying experience. In 1975, Randy Repass
hired boat-savvy, friendly staff to work
at West Coast Ropes, his clean, well-lit
Palo Alto store. When customers asked
for additional products — like antifouling paint, cleaners, and hardware
— he quickly expanded the product
line and renamed the company West
Marine. Forty years later, the name is
a “boathold” word for water enthusiasts
everywhere. Still focused on outstanding customer service, West Marine has
become the world’s premier Waterlife
Outfitter, offering its customers everything they need for their life on the
water, with more than 260 store locations
in 38 states and Puerto Rico. It serves
more than 150 countries with its eCom-merce and special order divisions. Along
with legions of loyal customers, it looks
like Randy Repass is still having a blast.
“My dream…was to create a
place where people like me
could improve their functional-
ity and gain independence.”
“The boating industry gave
me the opportunity to really
enjoy my work and interact
with customers who shared
my interests. I was having a
blast and building a business
at the same time.”
Horgan’s Shake-A-Leg organization serves
kids, people with disabilities, veterans, the
disadvantaged, and many others.