The charity was founded in 2004 by George Saidah, a successful software entrepreneur who was motivated by his personal experience with a loved one with a cognitive disorder. A sailor for more than 40 years, Saidah dreamed of combining his love of the ocean with service to the community. Since retiring in 2005, Saidah devotes his time to developing Heart of Sailing to create a fun and therapeutic opportunity for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
The experience of sailing is not limited to the physical, although for many participants, it is their first opportunity to enjoy the unique sensations associated with sailing: the feel of the wind, the movement of the waves, the sounds as the boat moves through the water, all of which are stimulating and exhilarating.
Participants typically range in age from 3-90 (although exceptions are made), and must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver. Participants are fitted with U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets and board the sailboats for the simple and basic lessons on boating safety and sailing. Upon departing the dock, the children learn more about the parts and function of a sailboat and are encouraged to participate as crewmembers. While aboard, the children have the opportunity (based upon their abilities) to help hoist and trim the sails, learning the basics of how wind propels the sailboat. Each child has the opportunity to take the helm and pilot the boat, which provides them with a greater understanding of the principles of sailing.
While sailing is relaxing and enjoyable, by focusing on incorporating all aspects of the experience - motor-skills, socialization, abstract thought, sensory stimulation, and confidence building; Heart of Sailing is able to maximize the therapeutic benefits of this form of recreation.
With its humble start in Indiana as a grass-roots organization, Heart of Sailing has received its 501(c)(3) designation and is a not-for-profit foundation. From inception, it has relied upon the generosity of volunteers, donors, and sponsors as Heart of Sailing does not charge a fee for the participants in the Daysail program. Heart of Sailing has no paid staff members, with Saidah and many others volunteering their time to run the organization. Grants and fundraising activities also help fund the Daysail program and maintain Heart of Sailing's fleet of boats and expansion. In the first 5 years, Heart of Sailing served more then 10,000 special needs individuals from 62 different sailing locations with more then 300 volunteer captains and 100% satisfaction and safety record.
Saidah is proud of what the foundation has accomplished in a short time, but he continues to dream big. A dreamer and doer, he doesn't take no for an answer. As he states, "My projected goals are to reach 20,000 children in the next five years through the establishment of regional programs." With Saidah's persistence and dedication, Heart of Sailing is in the capable hands of an adventurer, a sailor committed to bringing joy to deserving individuals and their family.
For more information about Heart of Sailing or to learn how you can help, please visit www.heartofsailing.org.