Forty-five Optimist sailors from the Manhasset Bay area and neighboring communities descended on the Port Washington YC on Saturday, July 22, geared up and ready to go sailing to support a worthy cause, the Make-A-Wish Foundation. By the end of the day, some very tired and soggy sailors had raised over $13,000 to help grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. And somewhere along the way, each and every young sailor learned that making a difference in another's life is not only fun but very rewarding.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, but with little wind. The Race Committee delayed the start of the race to wait for the wind to come up. In the meantime, all sailors gathered on the lawn in front of the clubhouse to hear a "wish kid" tell of her own story and experiences with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The crowd of young people listened intently as she spoke of her battles with her illness and how much her wish helped her through difficult times. One could hear a pin drop as she spoke. Some of the older children, who have sailed in this regatta in previous years at PWYC, knew the impact of their participation and what their fund raising efforts meant. For the first timers, their faces told the whole story. For as this young woman spoke, these sailors suddenly understood that their effort really was going to make a difference for someone - and that someone was a child just like themselves. And, as children do, they turned their new-found knowledge into action, listened patiently to last-minute instructions, and then were off down the dock, eager to begin the regatta.
Finally, by late morning, the wind had come up, the Race Committee had signaled a Harbor Start, and the juniors who had patiently waited on land for the high sign, jumped in their Optimists and were off to the race course. You just had to be out on the bay to appreciate the scene. Here were dozens of really young children navigating their little boats with confidence and skill - and loving every minute of it. As the day wore on, the winds picked up, white caps arrived and, not surprisingly, there were more than several capsizes, each handled calmly. Within seconds of a capsize, coaches raced to the scene to offer assistance. At one point, one young lady's Opti took a nose dive and looked as if it was about to sink, when one of her coaches yelled, "bail!." She immediately regained her composure, started bailing, and then continued sailing around the race course. Readers, these kids are as young as eight years old and were out on the bay in winds ranging from 12-18 knots - and doing a great job. It was only when the downpour arrived, and the rain was so heavy that one began to worry. But by then the youngest sailors had been sent back to the club, and the older sailors knew the "inclement weather" drill. All returned to shore, a bit damp, but very proud of their day's accomplishments.
Rear Commodore Bob Hodson did the honors at the Awards Ceremony, ably assisted by Junior Commodore Lianna Gordon. The ceremony was held indoors due to the weather. There were actually two parts to the ceremony. Up first were the winners of those who collected the most pledge money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. For their efforts they received donated gifts of electronics and other prizes along with a framed piece of art created by a "Wish Kid." The fund-raising winners: 1. Howie Curd, PWYC; 2. Casey and Erin Condon, PWYC; and 3. Brendan and David Rogers. These young people should be very proud of their efforts, for their contribution in forwarding a $13,000 check to Make-A-Wish of Metro New York.
The second part of the Awards Ceremony was recognition of the on-the-water achievements. Despite the soggy weather, the kids were in high spirits and supported the announcement of each award and its respective sailor with enthusiastic applause. Louis Nees, chair of the Race Committee, introduced the winners of the Sportsmanship Award, and said, "With the weather we are having, it was a day when if we could we would award many trophies for sportsmanship, but the two that we are honoring both took time from the race to help a fellow sailor who was swamped/capsized. This award goes to Meredith Krim, from MBYC and Colin Kennedy, from PWYC."
Top on the leader board for the day: Green Fleet: 1. Erin Condon, PWYC; 2. Sarah Roberts, PWYC; 3. Kristen Henne, PWYC; and 4. Hans Ring, SCLF. Blue Fleet winners: 1. Colin Kennedy, PWYC; 2. Casey Condon, PWYC; 3. Shanna Rae Savignano, PWYC; and 4. Brendan Rogers, SCLF. White Fleet winners: 1. John Haley, SCFL; 2. Claire McIntee, MBYC; 3. Patti Hoban, MBYC; and 4. Kade Denlon, MBYC. Red Fleet winners: 1. Patrick Molligo, PWYC; 2. Ryan Schmitz, PWYC; 3. Ben Loberly, MBYC; and Meredith Krim, MBYC.
Although every sailor went home with a T-shirt and goodie bag, there was one item they received that stood out over the rest. Make-A-Wish gave each participating sailor a blue bracelet that reminded them to "Share the Power of a Wish." The members of the Junior Bridge of the Port Washington Yacht Club understood that before the event, now there are 45 more children who understand that their participation in this regatta will make a difference in someone's life.
Many thanks to the people at Port Washington YC who devoted many hours to making the regatta a success: Theresa Nees and Sharon Abruzzo, Regatta Co-chairs; Commodore Don and Janet Wefer, Committee Boat; Louis Nees, Race Committee Chair; Tom Egan, Jr., Emily Abruzzo, Monica Jawski, and Roger Dorr, Race Committee members, plus the many PWYC members who helped during the day.
Beth Catanzaro, who is a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation was present at the Port Washington YC and helped throughout the day. Her enthusiasm for the work at the foundation was summarized this way: "Make-A-Wish is a part of my life that I hold near and dear and it really warms my heart when I can tell that others are affected by its power. There are so many things in life that hold the promise of making a difference in people's lives, but there are relatively few that come through. Make-A-Wish is one organization that truly makes a palpable difference in many people's lives... I could talk for hours about the kids, the stories, the moments...the bottom line is, in times of real challenge, I think Make-A-Wish creates moments of true grace."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is the largest wish-granting organization in the world with 71 chapters in the United States and its territories and 27 international affiliates spanning five continents. The Metro New York chapter is one of the busiest Make-A-Wish chapters, based on the number of wishes granted and operating budget. The Metro New York chapter, which serves the five boroughs of New York City and Nassau County began in 1983 when 13 volunteers joined together to grant the wish of 7-year-old Steven, whose heartfelt wish was to meet Daisy Duke (actress Catherine Bach) of the popular Dukes of Hazzard television show. Since the chapter founding, more than 6,000 wishes have been granted. In 2005, the Foundation granted 505 wishes and hosted another 189 children from Make-A-Wish chapters around the world whose wishes involved travel to New York City. This equates to one wish every 13 hours.
For more information on Make-A-Wish, to inquire about volunteering, and/or to donate to this worthy charity, please go to www.metrony.wish.org or contact Gaby Sappington, Director, Marketing and Communications, 516-944-6212 (ext. 115), 212-505-WISH (ext. 115), or firstname.lastname@example.org.