Started in 2009, the Lauderdale Yacht Club Sailing Foundation (LYCSF) began in an effort to make sailing accessible to young people aged eight to 18 – not only those with the means to afford it. Sailing builds character, independence, leadership skills and offers youth the opportunity to take these lessons and newfound strengths with them out into the real world.
The Sailing Foundation has served more than 800 kids in South Florida. They give scholarships and grants to young sailors to help them afford coaching and training programs and increase their chances to compete in highly competitive national and international regattas. Year to date, they have provided $42,000 to young sailors from Lauderdale Yacht Club and the community.
YATCO recently sat down with Beth Rielly, the Chairwoman and President of the LYCSF to learn more about this inspiring and meaningful initiative.
The LYCSF started in 2009 – what was the catalyst to this?
Lauderdale Yacht Club Sailing Foundation was started by parents and members of the Lauderdale Yacht Club.
Many of the kids in our community never have the chance to be on the water and be in touch with the aquatic resources we have. One of the most important things we can teach the kids in our community and beyond is respect for the water and water safety. Sailing teaches self-discipline, leadership, decision making and independence.
It is important to note that Lauderdale Yacht Club Sail Program is made up of youth sailors who are nonmembers as well as members.
You’ve seen many children come through your doors – why do you think sailing is such a beneficial sport to grant scholarships to?
Living in South Florida, we are surrounded by water, sailing and boating. The water and marine industry are critical in this area.
Yet, many of the kids in our community never have the chance to be on the water and be in touch with the aquatic resources we have. One of the most important things we can teach the kids in our community and beyond is respect for the water and water safety. Sailing teaches self-discipline, leadership, decision making and independence.
In an Opti regatta, (a small boat for kids ages 7-12), the kids are up at 6:00 am rigging their own boat, sailing on an ocean or other large body of water, in wind conditions up to 20 knots for six to eight hours, sometimes longer without a break.
They may check in with a coach on the water but otherwise they are solely independent. What a wonderful experience and teaching opportunity for kids. At higher educational levels such as college, collegiate scholarships for sailing are not available as they are in other college sports. So, finding funding to help support these kids from the start straight through their young sailing career is important.
Tell us about some of the charity’s greatest achievements and milestones.
We are incredibly proud of the fact that many of our grant/scholarship recipients and camp sailors who we have supported have gone on to win world championships, national regattas and some have gone to the Olympic trials. Colleges that might not have been within a student’s grasp are now attainable thanks to a consistent sailing career. Many sailors we have supported have gone on to Ivy League schools. Others have continued sailing in college and became leaders on and off the water.
Can you share some testimonials from past families who have benefitted from the LYCSF?
The coaches at the club are kind, funny and dedicate their time to making sure new sailors are taught to master their craft. Another thing that’s great about the program is the director JC allowed me to volunteer during the summer so I could give back and teach new and young sailors how to sail, that was awesome and fun; especially becauseone day I want to sail around the world and continue to give back.
With that being said, living in the sailing capital of the world is pretty cool and the fact that the Foundation and the Yacht Club opened their doors to me to be a part of this world is an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.“Gabriel Blandon, participant.
Our family has truly been blessed by the generosity of the LYC Foundation. What they have given Gabriel, which I’m sure he’ll echo and articulate in his own words as well, has gone beyond our expectations. Our family has a deep affinity and respect for the ocean so when Gabriel was awarded a scholarship to learn to sail, it was a dream come true, as he stated in his speech. I can attest, as a parent, seeing your child grow with a better sense of self and simply thrive in their talents is very reassuring. Everyone from JC LYC Sailing Director, whom Gabe just adores, to his coaches, and the other sailors, who are some of his closest friends, embraced Gabe and by giving him an opportunity to learn to sail in turn, he unlocked himself.
This program embraces children from all walks of life and shares the world of sailing which, is a more accessible way to space travel, as it’s like being on another planet, and they come back as a better version of themselves, hands down. How Ms. Rielly and the Folks at the LYC Foundation impact the lives of the children they award scholarships to is amazing and because they give it so freely from their hearts and through their diligent effort is not just a cause or a charity, it’s so much deeper, and it’s a calling that’s worth echoing.”Sherry Peters – Mother to Gabriel Above.
At first I was nervous and I didn’t know anything. My family is not a family of sailors so they couldn’t talk to me about what to expect. But that summer camp was an unforgettable experience for me. I immediately fell in love with sailing. I love the wind blowing on my face and how I could go fast just with my boat and the wind. One other thing I love about sailing is the regattas. I get to visit new places with my family and my team. With the support of the LYC Foundation I’ve continued my training with the Opti Sail Green Fleet program. Sailing also changed my life because I made new great friendships and It’s helping me to overcome many obstacles. I’ve become a better sailor everyday with the help of my awesome coach Mauricio. He helped me to feel safe in the water and he has helped me to be more confident and to face my fears during the regattas. I remember on my first regatta I was very anxious and my coach talked to me and told me how lucky I was to have opportunities to feel fear in a safe place with people around me that will help me if I need it. And it was just like that. Every day now I feel less anxious.”Josephine Cheval – participant.
Can you share a bit about Gold Star Sailing Camp and why this initiative is so close to your hearts?
We were introduced to Gold Star Sailing through its founder Col. Patrick Powers. He runs a one-week camp in Newport, RI for kids who have lost a parent to military action. He started Gold Star Sailing when he realized nine years ago that there were no support services for kids with parents in the military. Once we met him and saw the success of the program in Newport, we wanted to be part of it and help these kids. Thanks to the ambition of our Board, we brought Gold Star Sailing to South Florida because it fits in with our mission.
We host an all-expenses paid one-week camp for Gold Star Kids. They have a week together to meet, and to bond with other kids in their same boat – so to speak. We spend the week with sailing as their main event but also treat them to other fun events around the area. It gets them out of the home of the grieving parent and with kids who are experiencing the same feelings they are.
Often kids are a “unicorn” in their own school, as other kids and teachers cannot understand what they are going through with losing a parent in the military. They are also susceptible to bullying and their feelings are often overlooked.
At our Gold Star Sailing Camp, we allow those bonds to form, and they have a network of friends they can call or text and be in contact with for life. One of the campers who has attended Gold Star Kids in Ft. Lauderdale for the last three years is now sailing in college! Sailing is often a sport they have never done, and it fosters confidence, teamwork, and self-reliance.
A major takeback from this program is the confidence and pride my children have had by Gold Star Sailing (GSS) Camp. The three of them knew nothing of sailing, I got the texts saying, “mom what are we doing here – this is insane” to overcoming struggles and challenges to maneuver a boat, working with a team, and at the end of the week sailing a boat on their own. (My daughter Bella, year one, was timid, shy and quiet, to Patrick making her a counselor year three because he saw something in her that she didn’t. Now, Bella won’t stop talking and is involved with four clubs at college!) We can’t forget it’s about the lifelong friends they have made as well, these kids talk several times a month if not Snapchat weekly.
Going from that first year nervous as could be traveling on a plane by themselves, to “see ya in a week mom with a hug and now seeking out the fastest sailboat they have and being with coaches that inspire and push them to be better. To teach these kids you can overcome grief and it’s ok to live life is what this camp means to my family. Friends, confidence in new experiences I could not give to my girls, strength, bonds, and the pride I see when my girls talk about GSS and what they accomplished themselves is what I cherish. They build and learn more each year and take all those things I mentioned and use it every day in life. It may be only a week of camp but the impact of all of it is a lifetime.Becca Baldeosingh – daughters, Isabella, Kylie and Emily – Participants in Gold Star Kids
Where do you see the charity in 5 – 10 years – what’s coming next?
In five to 10 years, we hope to offer more scholarships and grants to our kids from South Florida as they grow as sailors. We would love to better support a community sailing program in Ft. Lauderdale. We hope to increase City Sailing to include high school sailing, not just sailing for elementary school age sailors. We would like to continue to support local sailing programs that offer scholarships to lower socio economic or disadvantaged youth and sailing experiences for the disabled no matter their age. We have grown in our mission because the need is evident, and the demand is growing to help kids.
How can people get involved?
DONATIONS! People can donate on our website and we also are setting up a Zelle account soon. We would love people to visit our new and improved website when it launches in a few weeks at: www.lyscf.org to learn more about us and donate online. Or mail a donation/check to:
Lauderdale Yacht Club Sailing Foundation
Attn Beth Rielly, Chair
1725 SE 12th Street
Ft Lauderdale FL
Or you can choose us as your charity of choice for any events or programs you are running. Help to promote us in your offices, stores, boat shows, online, etc.
Annual Event to Honor US Military and Sail Program
Other ways to help include donating an auction or raffle item to us or by supporting our amazing annual event – May 9, 2024 next year at Lauderdale Yacht Club as a sponsor or attendee. It is an evening to honor our US Military and the Sail Program.
Contact [email protected] for more information on the event or anything foundation related.
The LYCSF will be attending the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show later this month as a guest of YATCO’s at the YATCO Lounge at La Playa. We hope to see you there!