Since 1990, Shake-A-Leg Miami has helped people of all ability levels enjoy the Seas.
Harry Horgan conceived of this unique organization while still in Newport, Rhode Island, 1990 officially marks Shake-A-Leg Miami's founding in Miami. It took a leap of faith, the stewardship of Dr. Barth Green, and a dedicated team of Miami residents for Horgan and his wife Susie to make the move to South Florida. The location of the city provided him with the opportunity to host his innovative program throughout the year with less weather disturbances.
Thanks to the commitment offered through a $4 million Miami-Dade County "Trust for Safe Neighborhood Parks bond Fund" grant and other foundation support, the Shake-A-Leg Miami organization bloomed. Word spread around the city, and soon, Miami-Dade County Public Schools stepped in to form a relationship with the organization. 1996 was the year that Shake-A-leg Miami launched its initial programs to serve students with disabilities.
Turning salt into sugar once again, Horgan and the Shake-A-Leg Miami team enrolled 20 children into the Eco-Adventure Island summer program with the goal of helping to restore "Mother Earth Island," which is a small island located within the mangroves of the Biscayne Bay. Running from June 11 through August 17 each year, children now have the opportunity to wade out into Biscayne Bay through a variety of forms while soaking in information about the marine environment.
Shake-A-Leg Miami's recognition increased once again when it hosted the World Blind Sailing Championships with 11 teams from the US, Canada, UK, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Sweden, and France from October 16th through the 23rd in Miami.
Vision finally becomes reality. The construction of a new 3 story watersports building was completed and opened, providing multipurpose classrooms, offices, bathrooms, and a rooftop deck provided a universally accessible campus to the greater Miami community and visitors from all over the world.
Apart from opening a universally accessible campus to the greater Miami community, a 60-foot catamaran named the Impossible Dream made Shake-A-Leg Miami its permanent sea base. Conceived and originally built by Mike Browne, Deborah Mellen purchased this vessel as her way to give back and help other people with disabilities. This magnificent, universally designed sailing vessel serves individuals with special conditions and veterans, offering a fountain of inspiration for the community. Sailing along the eastern seaboard from Cuba to Maine, the Impossible Dream spreads awareness to individuals who are in need of improving their quality of life through an experience at sea.
Five hundred people within the Miami-Dade community gathered mid-October to celebrate Shake-A-leg Miami's 25th Anniversary with designer Jens Werner. Models strutted the runway stage, showing off clothing made from recycled sails. These models included many individuals with disabilities, exhibiting Shake-A-Leg Miami's continued commitment to support an inclusive community.
On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma rocked South Florida's marinas into destruction. it tested the strength of humanity and the Sunshine State's sanity, wiping out thousands of boats. For Shake-A-leg Miami, Hurricane Irma badly the fleet of boats and dock.
The bond people share with Shake-A-Leg Miami goes beyond words. Horgan and the Shake-A-Leg team decided to turn this unforeseen circumstance into a learning experience.
Expanding beyond its sailing and paddling programs, Shake-A-Leg Miami enlisted the help of its participants, local organizations and community volunteers. This newly formed team was able to raise funds to temporarily rebuild the docks and get their boats back in service.
Currently, there is still much to be repaired and more money to be invested; however, more than a 4 years later, Shake-A-Leg has demonstrated its endurance and resiliency.
The Covid-19 pandemic shut down the world, challenging us all to sail through a fog of uncertainty. We had to scale back programs and reduce staff to keep the organization afloat. Shake-a-Leg Miami believes in the healing qualities of the water and wanted to share it during the challenging time. Following all local and federal guidelines, the organization reopened a modified summer camp program and schedule so people could get out on the water to build their health and resiliency.
Empowered and determined, Shake-A-Leg Miami continues to develop a network of community partners, to share their expertise and resources with individuals in need, and strengthen Shake-A-leg Miami's distinguished reputation nationally. In the years to come, Horgan wants to innovate new programs and reach those in need globally.
What he says – is felt. What he dreams – comes true. What he believes – empowers lives.
His name is Harry Horgan, president and co-founder of South Florida’s beloved watersports organization Shake-A-Leg Miami.
On Biscayne Bay, a breeze blows Horgan’s curly hair to and fro and the waves rock his beloved boat. He smiles patiently as he maneuvers the wheel with delicacy and expertise. His bright sky-blue eyes and fine squint lines, resting in all the right places, disclose a rich history of service to others.
Despite his indisputable accomplishments within South Florida’s diverse communities, Horgan is a quiet, humble man. He is the kind of person who deliberately gathers his enterprising thoughts before opening his lips. A naturally sturdy demeanor and soft soul encompasses his noble heart. To know Horgan is to be inspired by him.
Partnering with the City of Miami, Shake-A-Leg Miami helps disabled children, military veterans and families embrace their special light and find their inner strength through unique, inclusive water sports programming. With 20 sailboats, 60 kayaks and several safety boats, the facility serves over 8,800 people annually.
Situated in Miami’s Coconut Grove area with all its coastal assets and businesses, the Shake-A-Leg Miami facility attracts the eye with its historically significant former Coast Guard hangar, well-maintained dock area and inclusively designed boats and sailboats.
Throughout the day, one will see people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds take part in all that Shake-A-Leg Miami has to offer. Horgan and his team welcome certified therapists, volunteers and family members to join them in assisting students who struggle with conditions ranging from autism to attention deficit disorders.
As a youth growing up in Rhode Island, Horgan took sailing lesson and developed a love for the ocean. After a car accident that left the 22-year old Horgan paralyzed, his life was steered in an unexpected direction – one that included rising above his challenges and founding one of the nation’s largest water sports facilities for the disabled.
Following his physical rehabilitation work and graduation from college, Horgan recalls a vivid memory from a Colorado ski trip. “Flying down the mountain, I forgot I was disabled,” Horgan said. For many years now, Horgan has worked to recreate that feeling for others.
From that one small, but extraordinary moment in Colorado, Horgan made a lifelong commitment to enable other individuals with disabilities to experience that same euphoric feeling and sense of freedom from their limitations. On Miami’s beautiful Biscayne Bay, water becomes the great equalizer for persons with physical, emotional or financial challenges. With Shake-A-Leg Miami’s help – participants enjoy the bay and experience freedom.