BY MARGARET ADAM
While the majority of Pass Christian children have the opportunity to participate in many sports through school and local recreation programs, water sports such as sailing are not so readily available to all, and the newly formed Pass Christian Community Sailing Foundation is working to change that.
The foundation’s mission, according to board President Robin Rafferty, is to give back to the community by teaching children about the water sports enjoyed along the coast, as well as preparing local students to compete in regional and national sailing competitions.
“The foundation was started to bring sailing and other water sports to our entire community,” explained Clark Brennan, general manager of the Pass ChristianYacht Club and foundation board member. “Because we live on the Gulf of Mexico, where so many water sports are enjoyed, we want to allow kids to experience something they might not otherwise have the opportunity to do.”
Following its successful gala fundraiser last month, co-hosted with the Pass Christian Boys and Girls Club, the foundation is providing several scholarships for local children to attend one of three two-week sessions of sailing camp, offered by the yacht club under the direction of Zeke Fairbank.
Boys and Girls Club Director Mindy Pizetta is also on the foundation board and her participation has been instrumental in identifying children who might benefit from the sailing camp scholarships, the other board members stressed.
The Pass sailing camp which operates from around 8:30 to 3:30 daily is a thorough program which includes learning how to operate the boats safely and successfully, said Fairbank. By the end of each session the campers have not only become skilled, but knowledgeable and confident sailors, he said.
The yacht club is an active partner in the program, which is able to utilize the trained staff and sailing camp already in place, added Brennan.
The next logical step for the foundation is supporting a Pass Christian sailing team capable of competing against other coast school teams as well as participating in regional and national competitions. Fairbank said he has already begun a dialogue with Pass school officials about coaching such a team in the fall.
While the sailing camp welcomes summer visitors as has always been its tradition, board members said they saw a need to reach out to local children as well.
“The foundation wants kids from here to have access to sailing and to other water sports such as paddleboarding as well,” said Fairbank. Board members hope fundraising efforts will make it possible to acquire boats and equipment as well as a designated base of operation somewhere in the harbor.
Rafferty is optimistic that the foundation’s mission will inspire community minded individuals to make donations of boats and supplies as well as funds.
The group has studied similar programs across the nation, said Rafferty, and once the foundation really gets rolling, board members hope to offer instruction in other sports not only to area kids but adults as well.
Rafferty said anyone who would like to become involved in the Pass Christian Community Sailing Foundation may contact him by email at Roraff@cableone.net, or by phone (228) 547-4873.