What Tanya Braet sees, Tanya Braet often does.
Two years ago, Braet '05, '06 MOT was crossing the I-74 bridge and saw members of the Two Rivers Y Quad Cities Rowing Club skulling on the Mississippi.
In a matter of days, she had an oar in each hand.
Some months later, Braet was researching her newfound hobby on the Internet and came across the concept of adaptive rowing. In June, a year and a half after Braet hit the print-screen tab on that online discovery, four Quad Cities paraplegic athletes hit the river in a specially adapted skull.
It was Braet who led the local adaptive rowing chapter from concept to reality, combining her foremost passions: rowing and occupational therapy.
Her see-and-do nature also led Braet to enroll a decade ago in the St. Ambrose Master of Occupational Therapy program at the age of 33. She had spent the previous several years as a secretary at Illini Restorative Care in Silvis, Ill., working directly with the center's therapy department.
"I saw the deficits patients had when they started therapy and saw them progress and become more independent and I just loved that," said Braet, who is now an occupational therapist at Hope Creek Care Center in East Moline, Ill. "I just love that it makes a difference."
Despite maintaining a 20-hour-per-week work schedule, Braet attacked college with her standard dose of relentlessness. It wasn't an easy path as a full-time student in her 30s, but Braet said she had the advantage of pursuing her degree in an MOT program where the teachers' motivational levels matched her own.
"They want you to succeed," she said of a program that boasts a 100 percent job placement rate. "Once I was able to accomplish getting my degree, I just felt like ‘OK, what's next?' I have always got to have something in the works."
Before she submitted her proposal for an adaptive rowing program to Mike Wennekemp, the Y's executive director, Braet needed to write a business plan. And, as it happened, she knew how. "The only time I had ever written a business plan was in graduate school," Braet noted. "At the time, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, when am I ever going to use this?'''
Her plan, of course, was approved last year, and Braet, adaptive rowing coach Jessica Brady and rowing club equipment expert Paul Herrington spent the spring outfitting and testing a wider, more stable adaptive hull at the Moline-based boat house.
On June 2, adaptive rowers Bob Jaurez, Juli Varble, John Sparks and Brent Herman put their oars in the Mississippi for the first time, but definitely not the last. If all goes according to plan, the QC group will be joined by adaptive rowers from across the Midwest at the annual Quad Cities Rowing Regatta in October.
That would amount to Braet's latest finish line and Dave Weaver, rowing director for the QC club, won't be surprised to see it crossed. "Passion, extreme passion," he said in describing Braet's key strength. "Without her, this program would never be where it is."