Philanthropists ‘on board’ for Challenged America

Program to present Regatta 2010

By Lee Schoenbart


Carol Hollan rose to prominence and became part of local history as San Diego’s first female board-certified plastic surgeon more than 25 years ago. However, Hollan is most proud of her role as first-mate to the captain’s position when it comes to yachting with her paraplegic husband and veteran Bob Hettiger.

Together, Hollan and Hettiger were the driving philanthropic forces behind the formation of Challenged America, the volunteer-based program founded by disabled veterans in 1978 that teaches adaptive sailing for adults and kids with disabilities.

On June 11-12, Challenged America will partner with West Marine and present Regatta 2010 featuring the Commodore’s Cup Challenge on Friday, followed by a dinner and auction, and concluding on Saturday with the Regatta on San Diego Bay. The cup challenge event is a first-to-finish race between commodores — any commodore, vice or staff commodore — of San Diego-based yacht clubs. Each yacht club must have two sailors on board, a skipper and passenger, with a commodore.

“Our keynote speaker is going to be Laura

Schlessinger, who is a pretty good sailor herself and well known for her commentary on the radio,” said Hollan, who joined the plastic surgery practice of Smoot, Smoot and Reza as a member of its medical team last month. “She’s a nice fit because she’ll be very entertaining, people know her and she’s a competitive sailor who gets the whole point of this.”

The point being, she said, “Bob became a sailor when he was rolling around Mission Bay seeing sailboats out there and thought that was a lot more fun than rolling around in a wheelchair on the land, so he talked some people into letting him get out on the water and bought a sailboat and learned how to sail.”

One of those people Hettiger rolled with was disabled veteran and quadriplegic Urban Miyares. They became cofounders of Challenged America in 1978, which is now managed by the Disabled Businesspersons Association and governed by the all-volunteer board of directors.

Hollan said the nonprofit organization “supports taking people out (sailing) who could never conceive of going out.

“People get to experience being on the water and have some autonomy,” she said, “they’re not just riding along, they’re actually sailing.”

She noted that Challenged America also took on significant racing competition in 1991 since growing from an adaptive learning program and becoming competitive with sailors in San Diego.

“They’ve done the TRANSPAC twice, which is a yacht race from L.A. to Honolulu,” she said.

Challenged America’s goal of racing in the TRANSPAC was established in 1991, realized in 2005 and repeated in 2007. The B’Quest, a Tripp 40 racing sailboat donated to the program by Brian and Suzanne Hull of Coronado, raced 2,225 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean twice in three years.

“On that trip there was a blind man, a paraplegic, a quadriplegic, a man with one eye, one arm and one leg and a guy with rheumatoid arthritis,” Hollan recalled. “By rules, they had to have one able-bodied person on board and there was one guy.”

When asked if she was that able-bodied person, Hollan howled with laughter and said, “I would have been hanging over the edge,” then admitted, “I’m just in love with the idea, the project and the outcome.”

Thirty-two years after Challenged America’s formation, Hollan reflected, “The creation of the possibility where people believed there was none,” is what gives her the most satisfaction.

Challenged America’s sailing office is in Shelter Cove Marina at 2240 Shelter Island Drive in San Diego.

To learn more, visit For information about the race, visit For reservations, call (619) 523-9318 and e-mail