Whether it’s the gentle rocking motion, the sound of water or the act of leaving land behind, something magical happens when you get a group of people on a boat. It’s practically therapy by boating.
At first, Freedom Waters focused on children with special needs or life-threatening illnesses. Recently, the non-profit had an opportunity to host a group of veterans. The program was such a success that Freedom Waters decided to repeat the experience.
On January 12, the 1926-built and USCG-certified Mariner III and Captain Sean Kennedy took 34 veterans living in Palm County for a three-hour cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway. It was a varied group with veterans from all major conflicts, including WWII and Iraq. They did not all know each other as they gathered on the aft deck to hear welcoming words from Captain Kennedy, standing perfectly still and quiet.
As the warm Florida sun shone down on the decks and the Mariner III cruised past gorgeous homes, the veterans ventured on the upper deck, the bow, the aft deck and walked into the pilothouse to chat with Captain Kennedy about running a classic yacht. By the time the boat returned to the Palm Beach Yacht Club dock, the decks were alive with animated conversations.
The organization, which now operates on both Florida coasts, has one full-time employee and relies on donations and volunteers. Its programs include regularly scheduled cruises. One of its primary challenges is finding owners willing to donate the use of their boats for a few hours, says Broker John Weller, who co-founded the charity with Debra Frenkel and lent his name to outings for children with cancer. Dubbed John Wellers days, the outings provide kids and families a chance to relax, bond and forget for a while the tremendous challenges they face. The same magic we saw at work with the veterans has happened with the children and their families. A few hours out on the water is all it took to paint big smiles or their faces.