Earlier this week from my perch above the waterfront, I saw a beautiful McGregor 65 sailing yacht docked in the intracoastal waterway. During a break I walked down for a closer look and noticed a cool wrap announcing the boat’s name “Defy the Odds” as well as the hashtag #SailForJustice.
Knowing there must me a story there, on my walk back to my office I gave a call to the number listed on the facebook page and found myself chatting with Michael Long, the Executive Director of SailFuture.
SailFuture is a not for profit based out of Sarasota, FL. They “combine long-term housing, challenging sailing experiences, an accredited high school, life coaching, and job training to transform the lives of some of the most challenging youth in Florida’s child welfare system.”.
They take in boys in the Floria Foster System between the ages of 15 and 18, focusing on those who have had run-ins with with authority. Michael explained that many of these kids don’t have more than a 6th or 7th grade education and are the most difficult group to be placed in foster homes.
They come to SailFuture from broken families and often lack any meaningful relationships with role models or authority figures. During their time with SailFuture they learn how to sail, do community service projects and finish their high school at the SailFuture accredited high school.
SailFuture’s West Palm Beach stop was on this year’s “Sea Trial”. The 3-month long trip with 6 students and 4 crew has taken them sailing from Tampa Bay to Key West, through Miami and now to West Palm Beach.
Our boys continue to help get the Big Pine Key and Little Torch Key community get back on its feet. This past week we helped resident Mark Parente move into a new home after he was displaced by Hurricane Irma.
During their week-long stay in West Palm Beach, the crew of Defy the Odds were working with Habitat for Humanity to build a home, while continuing their high school courses at Kaiser University.
Michael told me the fascinating story about “Defy the Odds”. The yacht was donated by a man named Hakan Usal in Turkey. The yacht needed substantial work, so Michael and a friend flew to Turkey and spent $100,000 on restoring the Yacht. Once the work was completed, the boat needed to be sailed back to the US. Deciding to wait until the hurricane season had passed, the crew had four months to spend in Europe.
They used their marketing skills to create a web page to sell Mediterranean cruises, and over the four months sold 120 vacation cruises and raised $150,000 to pay back the money they had spent on the boat and fund their trip back to the US.
The names that are inscribed in the hull of Defy the Odds are the names of that original group of “vacationers” and their first group of graduates from SailFuture.
“As we look to the future, we are excited to work in partnership with our kids and our graduates to continue developing our program model to create the most effective, authentic, and transformative experiences for the youth we serve.”
How you can help:
Book a sailing vacation! SailFuture Charters are donation-based sailing experiences for supporters, friends, and fellow adventurers. Take a trip to Tampa Bay, the Florida Keys, Cuba, or the Bahamas, and know that 100% of the money raised will go to support at-risk youth.
You can also purchase one of the needed items from the SailFuture Amazon Wishlist.
Follow the SailFuture team on Social Media, Facebook or Instagram. One of the students’ jobs is to update the social media and chronicle their trips. Mike explained that during their voyages, the student in charge of Social Media will read all the comments and messages that they receive to the rest of the crew. All encouraging messages of support are appreciated.