Sail4Kids Creates Miles of Smiles and Memories for Children

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Twenty-six children from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at the Westchester Medical Center, their parents, and healthcare providers signed up for an afternoon of sailing, gutter boat racing, and a barbecue at American Yacht Club on Long Island Sound. On this sweltering Sunday in July, 14 boats and sailors from four local clubs took part in an amazing event.

Twenty-six children from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at the Westchester Medical Center, their parents, and healthcare providers signed up for an afternoon of sailing, gutter boat racing, and a barbecue at American Yacht Club on Long Island Sound. On this sweltering Sunday in July, 14 boats and sailors from four local clubs took part in an amazing event.

Children with diabetes, heart conditions, kidney disorders, metabolic disorders and autoimmune diseases went out on the water, most for their first sail ever. The breeze was gentle and spirits were high. The children were encouraged to help out with sailing duties, and some even turned out to be naturals. “For these kids and their parents, who have normal dreams and aspirations but health challenges that sometimes get in the way, it was a chance for a day of new experiences -- memories of which will linger for a long time to come,” said Daria Blackwell, co-chair for the event.

The sailors, who took an afternoon out of their busy schedules to create a great memory for a few children, also found they learned a few things. They learned about how challenging life can be for these children and what troopers they are for managing their lives around the challenges. One sailor said, “I had never thought about just what it means to not be able to eat any protein. They can basically never have a meal they did not prepare themselves.”

One mother stopped an organizer of the event and said, “Just look around you. These are kids and parents that are dealing with serious life-threatening issues many days of their lives, but you don’t see one sad face or one tear being shed today. They are smiling and laughing and being perfectly normal. You’re doing a wonderful thing here.”

Volunteer “shore crew” set up the barbecue and gutter boat racing circuit while the sailors were out on the water. Some flipped burgers; others stuffed goodie bags for the children with really cool remembrance items donated by sponsors Wachovia, Fuji, American Yacht Club, and individual contributors. "Wachovia is proud to be the presenting sponsor for Sail4Kids. Our partnership with the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, now in its fourth year, fits beautifully with our commitment to help improve the quality of life in the communities we serve," said Kristin H. Murphy, Senior Vice President - Relationship Manager, Wachovia Wealth Management.

Children in the junior JAYC and Shore Program at American Yacht Club built the gutter boats, one for each participating child, to race and take home. D’Agostino donated salads, the hospital sprang for the burgers and dogs, http://www.CoastalBoating.net donated drinks, BoatUS Foundation provided lifejackets for the kids, and lots of individuals donated their time. One member donated collectible beanie babies another donated a selection of brand new children’s books about sailing and the sea to the hospital library and “sailing salon,” which was designed by Sparkman & Stephens, supervised by Olin Stephens and built by Derecktor Shipyards.

“It was a real community effort,” said Alex Blackwell, co-chair for the event, “and we are very grateful to everyone who supported it and helped create a great experience and lots of lasting memories today.” The Sea Scouts and Pinnacle Yachts have already shown interest as participants for next year."

All in all, it was a memorable day for everyone involved. As one skipper put it, “I think we changed a family’s life today.” And more than one crew reported having inspired a child, a parent, or a healthcare worker to take up sailing.

The Sail4Kids Make a Memory Cruise, originated by Alex and Daria Blackwell last year, was organized by the Sail4Kids committee, co-chaired by Maria Stanton. The Sail4Kids fundraising Captains’ Dinner on September 29 will honor Olin Stephens with John Rousmaniere as host; John will be signing books. The Wachovia Cup Regatta will be held in association with the American Yacht Club’s Fall Regatta on the last weekend in September. Information is posted at http://www.sail4kids.org .

Anyone wishing to learn more about the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital or Sail4Kids, and perhaps become a sponsor of this worthy cause, please contact Jan Mittan. It’s a most amazing place, with world class services that you hope you’ll never need but are assured access to if you do. “Come visit and see for yourselves,” says Jan, “starting with the huge aquarium in the lobby, you’ll be convinced this is no ordinary hospital.”

For more information about Sail4Kids Make a Memory Cruise, please contact Alex and Daria Blackwell.

High resolution photos are available to media. Contact or visit http://www.sail4kids.org, where an image gallery has been posted.

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