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Sailing the Day Away
August 4, 2012
By: Jen Cooper
When the Pujols Family Foundation announced its National Launch in April 2012, I was thrilled about the opportunities that we would have to share what we do with other communities across the country. While we have the chance to offer many successful events in St. Louis, I have been looking forward to the events that we would be able to do that were unique to each individual city. On my first trip out to Southern California, I was able to experience such an event.
In partnership with the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County and the Children’s Maritime Foundation, the PFF hosted the ‘Sail Away’ event on August 4th to around 100 people in the Down syndrome community. Two sailing trips were taken with people with Down syndrome ages 5-12 and a parent going in the morning session and the 13 years and older group setting sail in the afternoon. The American Pride, the official tall ship of Long Beach played host to our families. Standing at 130 feet high, the ship was originally built as the “Virginia”, a two-masted schooner-dragger in 1941 for the purpose of commercial fishing in the New England area. In 1986, the ship was rebuilt including adding a third mast, new decking, water-tight bulkheads, new machinery, etc. She was renamed the “Natalie Todd” and was used for charter cruises out of Bar Harbor, Maine. The Children’s Maritime Foundation purchased the ship in 1996 and took the historic 7500 mile journey through the Panama Canal to its new home in the Rainbow Harbor.
After everyone had checked in on the dock, the group was escorted to board the ship. As each family found a place to sit, they were warmly welcomed by a member of the ship’s crew. As they were being informed of the different activities that they would be experiencing on their ride, the ship left dock to hit the open water. Almost immediately it was time to raise the sails with the help of our honorary crew members. They all pitched in with a great group effort. The look of accomplishment on their faces was a joy to witness.
Next up was something that was not only educational but full of slimy fun. A whole array of sea creatures were presented to the group. As the descriptions of what made each one unique were shared, all of the kids and adults got a chance to touch them, often with screams of “gross” or “slimy”. As the educational portion was winding down, the families were free to explore the ship and interact with the crew members and with each other while enjoying delicious snacks. For some, it was an opportunity to spend time with good friends and for others, it was a chance to meet new ones.
As we pulled back into dock, I could not believe how fast the time had gone by. It felt like we had been out for a matter of minutes, not hours. I have always felt so blessed by the families that we serve in St. Louis. It was amazing to be able to meet and spend time with the wonderful families that we are now serving in Southern California. I got to hear THEIR stories! Because while the sailing was the backdrop for the day, it is the people that are important. My time with them was too short but I am anxiously awaiting the next opportunity I have to spend time with my new friends.