It’s Tuesday and the athletes are in the middle of a land drill. Each one tries skippering the boat—a 420—and transferring the rudder. It’s a complicated sailing move, so they keep practice to the shore. Without warning, one young girl takes off for the water and performs the maneuver perfectly. She runs in and victoriously tells her family she did it.
For Meta Frasch, head coach of the Charleston Special Olympics Sailing Team, it’s just another day.
“She was so excited,” Meta recounts, “They conquer everything and they keep a smile on their face. It’s well worth everything.”
By “everything,” she means starting Charleston’s Special Olympic Sailing community nine years ago, traveling to two World Games as one of Team USA’s head coaches, and organizing and executing full-fledged regattas every year. If you ask her about her role in changing Charleston, she’ll redirect you to the sailing community who went out of their way to help.
Meta (pronounced mee-ta) says she’s shy. She’d rather talk about her city’s sailing population than herself. But Meta’s humility can’t mask how she has given both kids and adults with mental disabilities a chance to build confidence and independence through sailing. Not unlike what sailing does for Meta. At age ten, she bought her first sunfish, “The Lady Bug,” which was “usually last” in races. But sailing gave Meta freedom and quietness.
“I could put the boat in the water and be by myself and nobody would worry about me,” Meta says.
Meta has been involved with Charleston sailing ever since. She was running the program at James Island Yacht Club when Sam, who has Down Syndrome, said he wanted to try it. Sam was the first team member. Today, there are fourteen athletes. In May, sailors from fifty different teams came to Charleston for the eighth Annual Special Olympics Lowcountry Regatta. As Meta talks about the Regatta’s opening ceremonies—the airboat that carries the torch, the athlete that jumps off to light the cauldron, the bagpipes, fireworks and parade of boats—her voice soars. She talks more quickly. She goes from shy to bold, just because of her love for the work.
“My mother recently reminded me that when I was 14, I said I wanted to help Special Olympics. I don’t really remember that,” Meta says. “My mom said, ‘It’s been in your heart for a while.’”
A few years ago, Meta retired from her physical therapy practice when her scoliosis became too much. She found relief in muscadine grapeseed oil, an anti-inflammatory aid, and is now a health and wellness advocate for it. She wants to help a million people. Literally, a million.
“Another goal,” she laughs. “You have to have goals and you have to have dreams, right? You can’t let people steal your dreams.”
Words by: Jessica Kenny
Photography by: Karson Photography