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Heart of Sailing – Free Nautical Adventure for Families and Group of Special Needs children and adults
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.
Heart of Sailing introduces sailing for free to children and adults with developmental disabilities, such as Autism and Down Syndrome, as a form of education and recreational therapy.
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.
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.