In today’s fast-paced world, it is often difficult to find a way to relax and unwind. But what if you or a family member had a severe health issue or a physical, mental or emotional challenge that you dealt with on a daily bases? Not only would you have the “stresses of life” to contend with, but there are many other things you’d be dealing with that most of us can’t even imagine. We can uncork a bottle of wine or go away for the weekend or just veg out in front of the TV watching football or a good movie. Many people living in our society aren’t that lucky and finding a way to “get away from it all” and relax isn’t that easy.
Fortunately, there is a Kirkland based group called Gratitude Sailing that does just that by giving these children and adults with severe health issues and physical, mental and emotional difficulties an opportunity to do something just for themselves that is fun, challenging and rejuvenating.
“Gratitude Sailing was formed to use the challenge of sailing to help people unburden themselves from a physical, mental or social crisis,” says Stephen Lamson, founder of the group. “We know that Heeling is Healing, and we are committed to serving those that sailing can help.” (The definition of heeling: when a ship or boat leans over to one side, from the action of waves or from the centrifugal force of a turn or under wind pressure.) The group’s 52 foot wooden sailboat started doing therapeutic sails in 2014 and by the end of May 2018, had taken over 1000 children and adults sailing on local waters. They take groups of 6 to 20 people on board that are dealing with cancer, autism, depression, diabetes, obesity, parkinson’s, physical and/or mental handicaps, crones, blindness, deafness, Wounded Warriors and many other issues. There are five qualified skippers and 12-15 crew members that rotate on most sailings.
Each sail is 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours and all participants are offered a turn at the helm. Everyone on the boat participates in the sailing adventure if they are able. This nautical experience is something brand new for almost everyone on board and there are smiles and tears and a lot of laughter. Sometimes there are kids and adults together sharing the adventure and Lamson has seen friendships formed, confidences built and a great sense of comradery among those together on a sail. But mostly, he has seen the participants just having a great time doing something just for them that make them feel free and happy — something that can have a lasting impact.
This 1963 classic wooden Kettenburg sailboat was donated by Barbara and Gerry Maurer (former Commodore of the Seattle Yacht Club) and in today’s market would cost about 3 million dollars to build. Each time she is taken out for a sail, it costs Gratitude Sailing $750 to $1000. There is no charge to participants and everyone involved is a volunteer. During the winter months, moorage is graciously donated by Kathy Swanson, Manager at Liberty Bay Marina in Poulsbo, WA. This saves the group about $1,500 a month! The rest of the year when they do their therapeutic sails, moorage is paid directly by the group.
Since Gratitude Sailing is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, they rely completely on personal donations, corporate sponsorships, grants, auctions and fund-raising cocktail parties. The Kirkland Kiwanis Foundation has been a sponsor of Gratitude Sailing for the past three years. Their successes with children ties in to the Kiwanis mission statement of “Serving the Children of the World”. Gratitude Sailing promotes the social and spiritual wellness of both children and adults by temporarily immersing them in a novel and challenging environment. They believe in celebrating properties of being on the water together — growing, learning and just having a great time!!
If you would like to make a donation and learn more about Gratitude Sailing, visit their website at www.gratitudeSailingNW.or or call Stephen Lamson at (425) 503-1499. For more information about The Kirkland Kiwanis Foundation, go to www.kirklandkiwanisfoundation.org or call Tom Pendergrass at (206) 910-1949.
“Our family had the most amazing time today thanks to Gratitude Sailing! Our 8 year old son has Mitochondrial Disease (progressive, degenerative, life threatening) & recently spent January-April in-patient at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Today…he got to feel the wind in his hair, the warm sunshine on his face & the cool water on his skin along with his older siblings. What a blessing – no words of thanks will ever be enough!” The Bertsch Family – Brian Bertsch, Tricia Matheny Bertsch, Caiden (12), Audrey (10), & Calvin (8) (Bertsch family)