Who We Are
Sailability Greater Tampa Bay, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.
Sailability Greater Tampa Bay's mission is to provide affordable, accessible, sailing activities and education to children and adults of all abilities, focusing on community integration to improve the quality of life for all involved.
Sailability Greater Tampa Bay, Inc., is a 501 (c) 3 operating out of Pinellas County, whose services are provided to the Greater Tampa Bay Area. To date, we have two consultants and a very dedicated volunteer staff. We pride ourselves on our mission, which is to provide affordable, accessible sailing activities and education to children and adults of all ages and abilities, focusing on community integration to improve the quality of life for all involved.
The concept of our program was born in March of 2001. It was at that time that a small group of people envisioned and implemented an opportunity within their community. They knew that the sport of sailing was one in which those individuals who were physically challenged, could partake in this fun activity. They knew that boats could be adapted to individuals’ needs, thereby affording those with physical limitations the opportunity to experience the fun in sailing. Hence, those challenged individuals quickly realized that the only limitations they faced were those of the mind, and, that whatever one might set their mind to do can be accomplished.
By June of 2001, we owned three Access Dinghies. Moreover, by December 2002, we owned a fleet of six which consisted of two manual 2.3 designs, two 2.3 electric designs, and two 303 manual designs. Over the next year, our affiliations and networking within our community, assisted us in the acquisition of other adaptive equipment which included a “sip and puff” sailing mechanism, adaptive seating, a custom built trailer to transport our fleet, and life jackets.
By 2003, a grant awarded to us by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, allowed us to purchase yet another fantastic boat. We now had the funds to purchase a vessel in which a ventilator dependent quadriplegic would be able to sail independently. In fact, in June and August of 2004, after training provided by Sailability Greater Tampa Bay, Inc., Lynn Moers, a ventilator dependent quadriplegic, set a record here in Clearwater to be the first ventilator dependent quad to sail independently in the United States on an Access Dinghy. (See attached article from the Tampa Tribune). Subsequently, he has been able to leave his bed at the James A Haley VA Hospital in Tampa at least three times a year since he learned to sail, to keep up his tiller time. In fact, in June of 2008 when Sailability hosted their event for veterans old and new, and at our community sails, Lynn led the way for our returning Iraqi vets, demonstrating the opportunities our waters could provide to them. Needless to say, whilst he navigated the Clearwater Intercoastal waterway, wheelchair bound vets, accompanied by their families, friends and, therapists, watched him in awe from atop “The Miss Beverly”, as he demonstrated what they too could do. In fact, in 2008, we started training a small group of therapists at the James A Haley VA hospital in Tampa. We have since had these therapists bring patients out to the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, where these wounded warriors got to partake in the relaxation via the fun and sun in sailing.
In 2003, we became the first organization to provide sailing instruction to the Special Olympic athletes in the State of Florida, focusing on the athletes residing in Pinellas County. Their experiences with us were so positive, that the Special Olympic organization in Pinellas County contracted with us to train their athletes and unified teams in sailing.
During 2004, as a result of this relationship, Sailability GTB was deemed the official coaches and trainers for the Special Olympics event in sailing, and our site serves as the model for those interested in modeling a program after ours. By 2004, we were serving athletes in Pasco, Hillsborough, and Hernando County. And, hosted the venue for the state games in sailing, reaching out as far as West Palm Beach, Orlando, Miami and Sarasota, just to name a few. Over the years to follow, we were invited to, and presented at the Special Olympic Educational Conferences in Orlando. And, in 2007, we had the opportunity to present a session on “How to Start Your Own Sailing Program”, which was received enthusiastically by those who attended our seminar.
In 2005, additional funding provided to our program by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, the Palm Harbor Junior Women’s Club, Health South Rehab, the Sertoma Breakfast Club of Clearwater, along with funding from other private donors, allowed us to purchase two more 303 designs. This has resulted in providing additional access of our program to meet our extended community needs. In fact, as a result of the increased community awareness to Lynn Moers’ accomplishments, and multiple sailing opportunities at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, supported by Sailability’s programs, veterans from the Bay Pines VA, The James A Haley VA, various veteran support groups, returning Iraqi vets, as well as paralyzed vets and their families, have been given the opportunity to shed their wheelchairs to enjoy a day on the water.
We are proud of the fact that since our inception, we have been able to have a positive impact on many individuals. Our program has graduated a multitude of sailors; many of which where either mentally or physically challenged, as well as able bodied children, adults, and seniors. Some of those physically challenged individuals include quadriplegics, paraplegics, amputees, stroke survivors, and those with neurological impairments such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis, just to name a few. Moreover, we have been able to introduce the experience of sailing and touch the lives of more than 500 individuals, along with their family members and caregivers, living within the immediate Tampa Bay Area, spanning from St Petersburg to Lakeland, to as far as Citrus County.
In September of 2008, the Dunedin Boat Club along with the Kiwanis Club of Dunedin hosted a regatta to raise funds for a youth sailing program. Sailability GTB and our Special Olympic Athletes participated in this event. Our presence at this event deemed this regatta as fully inclusive, thereby raising awareness in our community for the need to maintain community inclusion and accessibility for all. We feel that our presence and support within our community will fuel the acceleration of programs like ours, throughout our Greater Tampa Bay and outlining areas.
In 2009, we have held multiple outreach events for varied community organizations. A strong focus is on the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, the Recreational Rehab and Spinal Cord program at the James A Haley VA, Someplace Special (an organization for autistic children and their families), the local Muscular Dystrophy Association, Tampa Shriners Hospital and Special Olympic training, just to name a few.
We pride ourselves on the fact that all these accomplishments have been made available through an EXTREMELY dedicated volunteer staff. And, as we grow into this next decade, we anticipate growing our program and touching many more lives!