Back in March my friend and fellow sailor Mariano Richiusa came to visit us and to get a couple more ASA certifications. One night I drove him to Clearwater Beach, then to Sand Key to check out the Clearwater Community Sailing Center (CCSC) in order to get ideas for his sailing school in Puerto Rico.
On that beautiful spring night we met Rich White, Program Director at the CCSC, and we became instant friends. Turns out that Rich spent some time in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and we have many friends in common. Rich’s charm, personality and passion for sailing, combined with his sailing experience and desire to help others get into the sailing lifestyle are contagious.
We came for a quick visit and ended up staying for six hours, talking about sailing, reminiscing about the good old days in the Caribbean and talking about his experiences since he joined the CCSC. I still remember Rich’s excitement when he told us the story of Mark, a 12 year old autistic boy, whose mom brought him to the CCSC when looking for a summer camp last year, and who Rich himself taught how to sail.
He remembered how after Mark went out with him in a Hobie, he was ready to sail. Rich didn’t know about working with children who had autism, but he was willing to learn and told us he wanted to help the CCSC start a formal program to teach children with special needs how to sail. I gladly volunteered to help and offered our sailboat to take parents and potential campers on their initial sail to introduce them into our wonderful world of sailing.
“After meeting Mark and evaluating him to make sure I could teach him, I started with one-on-one instruction three half-days a week,” said Rich. “Within two weeks, we went to full days. Mark is amazing. Not only does he sail alone, but he has become much more social.” Mark’s mom was so pleased, she told Rich she wanted to stay connected with the Sailing Center and became a member.
By the end of last summer, not only had Mark learned to sail and paddleboard by himself, he had joined the CCSC’s regular summer camp activities.
The encounter changed Mark’s life forever and became the catalyst for Camp Awesome, a new summer camp at the CCSC that will be aimed at helping children with special needs.
Thanks to CCSC’s Board Member Lex Raas’ suggestion of having a Silent Auction, back in April, to raise funds and also for the hard work and dedication of many volunteers and friends of the CCSC, the 2012 Camp Awesome became a reality.
Sue Steward, the Sailing Center’s director said, “We will start out this program in a small but phenomenal way and work up to the best way of moving forward. I’m overwhelmed by the amazing local support and donations we’ve received.”
Since last summer, CARD, or Florida’s Center for Autism Related Disabilities, has trained sailing instructors and other Sailing Center staffers so they have a better working knowledge of how to assist children with special needs.
CCSC’s staff is the key element to all of their achievements. Each staff member is carefully picked for their leadership, enthusiasm and dedication to promoting water safety and all the programs CCSC provides. The center’s staff works under the guidance of the CCSA board of directors. Their staff recognizes that safety on the water is top priority. CCSC welcomes and encourages everyone to participate in their activities regardless of age, gender, race, creed, place of origin, financial status or physical ability.
When you join the CCSC you have access to Kayaks, Optimists, Prams, 420’s, Sunfish , BigFish, 14’ Hobie Wave Catamarans, Lasers, Standup Paddleboards, 16’ Catamarans, Hobie Getaway, 17’ Daysailer and windsurfers. If you want to try the boats before you join you can rent them for a low per-hour fee.
The CCSC is US SAILING Sanctioned. The US Sailing approval shows that they are among a small number of community sailing centers in the country that are recognized for providing exemplary training and educational programs consistent with the curriculum standards of the US SAILING Training Department.
For more information, to check the CCSC calendar of events or better yet to become a member, please visit the CCSC web site at clearwatercommunitysailing.org.
Capt. Tony Miró is a life-long sailor, photographer and web developer who currently lives in Florida with his family, where they sail aboard their Hunter 376 ¡Nada Mas! He runs sailboatspecs.com, caribesailingadventures.com & tonymiro.com.