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Rain can not dampen the spirit of Sail4Kids

Gutterboat racing took the place of real sailing, but the life jackets came in handy nonetheless.

Every year towards the end of June American Yacht Club "Makes a memory" for many families with children being treated for serious health conditions. It is leisurely cruise from American Yacht Club (AYC) with children from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital (MFCH) at Westchester Medical Center making lots of smiles and happy memories followed by BBQ Dinner.

The younger volunteers got into the spirit with some valuable knot tying lessons.

The forecast forfor one of these events started out pretty reasonable.  Saturday was a glorious day despite the forecast, and though not great, the forecast for Sunday read the same. By Sunday morning it was a 50:50 chance of rain and a possibility of thunderstorms, which was deemed ‘not bad’.  “Go-No Go?” The decision had to be made.   We had more than 40 boats from all over Long Island Sound, more than 30 families, about 30 JAYC ‘crew’, and countless shore volunteers arriving by 1300.  So at 9:00 we posted a “Go” on the call-in phone number.

Commodore Bruno of AYC made an early morning guest appearance on CBS Good Morning America, organized by AYC member Tom Delaney.  The Commodore talked about the importance of AYC’s involvement in Sail4Kids and supporting Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.  In the interview lasting more than 3 minutes – an eternity on broadcast TV.

Gutterboat racing took the place of real sailing, but the life jackets came in handy nonetheless.

Meanwhile child patients from the hospital from all over the tri-state area were gathering up their belongings, their excitement and their families and making the trek out to AYC.  While the shore crew set up, the radar plots kept deteriorating.  There was fog, there was a light occasional sprinkle, and there was thunder, which seemed to be passing well to our south.  “Go-No Go?”

As our guests arrived and were checked in, each family was paired with a boat and a member of JAYC whose responsibility it was to introduce and assist as necessary. What happened next attests to the strong character of our members.  While we waited for the rumbling to pass, ingenuity, creativity and initiative made things happen. As more and more volunteers from American and other clubs arrived to assist, we brought everyone over to the covered dance terrace for protection from the rain if/when it started.

Between the lightning, thunder and rain, we found time for rigging demos.

One husband and wife team organized the gutter boat racing which had been planned for later in the afternoon and proved tons of fun for all.  As Junior AYC members took over the responsibilities at gutter boats, the adults took on new challenges.  One added her expert touch to organizing lots of other shore activities around the boating theme, assisted by a broad contingent of JAYC and many adult volunteers.  There were knot tying, rope throwing, compass rose exercises, and ‘pin the burgee on the sailboat’ – all of which proved entertaining and educational.  We were very impressed with how warmly our JAYC and other kids welcomed their guests constantly making sure everyone was having a great time. This really made it happen, and it was wonderful.

Meanwhile, the conditions got worse rather than better and reports from Long Island were dismal.  ‘Thunder and lightening, very very frightening’.  The K6 boats cancelled racing, and we cancelled the sailing.  But hey, if it was too risky to go out sailing, why not get the families out for a spin around the harbor on power boats during the calm periods?  If things got worse they could get back in a hurry.  We already had multiple power boats on stand by in case we needed backup for sicker children and to take out photographers and media crews.   An improvised “Go” was the decision.

It’s amazing what people with lots of heart can accomplish together.  The power boats were mobilized immediately along with a club launch. More power boats arrived and even Bear was pressed into service. Families lined the docks and spilled onto boats, donned in their life jackets provided as a courtesy by BoatU.S. Foundation.  The smiles and reports from the harbor were heartwarming.  Our members explained about all the different boats, showed the kids all the equipment, pointed out the wild life and islands, and made it a truly fun experience for all.  By the way, did you know that the reason some boats have two steering wheels is because it lets the husband and wife duke it out at the helm?  At least that’s the story our guests heard!

As the rain started in earnest, we all reconvened at the dance terrace for delectable burgers and dogs and chicken galore.   Here another group of volunteers dished out the goodies to the hungry crews.  Commodore Bruno welcomed our guests and thanked everyone for participating promising good weather next year and Doctor Kronin, a pediatrician from MFCH and a native of Dublin Ireland , thanked everyone while wondering what all the fuss about the weather was. 

A huge thanks to all the boaters and the AYC staff for punting. We lost count of how many times the barbeque had to be moved.  The power boaters jumped right in.  The sailors were great sports although disappointed about not having the chance to share their passion.  Just having everyone there was a fabulous tribute. We wound up having a great and big party, lots of fun and games, good food and good cheer. Sponsors came forward to support all the events, food, T-shirts, and goody bags for all to bring some memories home. All sponsors will be acknowledged at the concert fundraiser in September.

Everybody got out on the water for a ride in the harbor.

The cool thing is that some of the sailors made arrangement with their families to take them out for a sail on a better day.  Commodore Bruno went on to suggest that individual families might consider inviting families out for a day sail. This is great, and we hope many will take this lead  How much better than that does it get?  A family adopting a family to introduce them to our great sport and give them a respite from their difficulties.  And just about everyone planned to be there with rain dances next year.  All you need to do is call Margie Ostrower at the children’s hospital and we are sure she will be delighted to make the arrangements.

The kids and families we welcomed would not be where they are physically and emotionally without efforts like Sail4Kids and without the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. We encourage you to consider helping further by working on corporate sponsorships, and perhaps by also chipping in something yourselves. We did, and if enough of us do so, it will add up very quickly.

Thanks everyone.

Daria & Alex Blackwell

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