It's set to be a cracking Easter for Staunton Harold Sailability Trust as they get ready to give even more people with disabilities the chance to get active afloat in 2018 having doubled the number of local children they got on the water to over 330 in Sailability's first year.
Staunton Harold Sailability open their doors for their first taster session of the year on Easter Sunday (1 April), with 10 monthly sessions scheduled between now and October, plus the Melbourne-based club's popular Annual Sailability Day on Saturday 26 May and open-to-all Push The Boat Out try sailing day on Sunday 6 May.
Sailability is the nationwide programme, run by sailing's national governing body the RYA, which gives people of all abilities the chance to learn to sail and sail regularly.
Having run a successful annual Sailability Day for over 20 years, two years ago Staunton Harold Sailing Club - the 2014 RYA Club of the Year - decided to expand its disabled sailing activities. To attract funding and additional support, they formed a charitable Trust and now, 12 months on, the Trust has raised over £21,000, bought eight specialist boats and introduced more youngsters than ever to sailing.
Mark Harden, Staunton Harold Sailability co-ordinator, said: "Everything we do is about building confidence and independence and we've been genuinely humbled by the support we've received so far. We started 2017 with nothing and ended it owning eight boats, all the buoyancy aids and lifejackets we need and a pool of 45 volunteers, drawn from the club, family, friends and parents of children taking part, to call on at any time.
"Our Annual Sailability Day typically attracts 120-145 people and each of the eight taster sessions we ran last year were nearly full, with 24 at each. The numbers could have been even higher had we had our specialist boats before August. Our aim for this year is to run more sessions, and we have an additional two scheduled for families, schools and community groups to make the most of. We can't wait to launch again on Sunday."
Amongst the local groups, schools and charities Staunton Harold have worked with in the past year include Umbrella in Derby, Lichfield School and a number of individuals through the club's social media engagement.
Meanwhile, the club benefited from a number of local fundraising schemes and grants, including being the official charity for the Ashby Santa Fun Run, Tesco 'Bags of Help' Grant Scheme at Tesco Extra in Ashby, the East Midlands Airport Community Fund, a Boots cake sale plus match-funding and the Derbyshire Freemasonry Community Awards, while Ward Recycling supported Sailability with lifejackets, spray tops and visibility bibs for volunteers.
The club and its volunteers also undertook a number of fundraising events and challenges, such as taking part in the Santa Fun Run, Stop-tober, a Dogs Evening, curry and quiz night, Charity Gala Dinner and BBQ plus other individual efforts and donations.
Mark, who received an Outstanding Contribution Award from HRH The Princess Royal in recognition of his work with Staunton Harold Sailability at the 2017 RYA Volunteer Awards, insists they won't let the momentum drop.
He added: "Sailing is one of the few sports where people of all abilities can participate side-by-side; once on the water everyone is equal. Our medium term aim is for participants to become members of the sailing club, taking part in the full range of activities the club runs, while long-term we want to be able to provide sailing opportunities for more severely disabled people."
In 2016, the RYA become the first UK national governing body to achieve the Advanced Level of the Sports Councils' Equality Standard for Sport in recognition of its commitment to increasing diversity amongst participants in sailing and boating.
Discover how you can get involved in Staunton Harold Sailability at www.shst.org.uk or like their Facebook page at @shsailabilitytrust
. To find your nearest Sailability site at www.rya.org.uk/sailability