“When the motor gets turned off and the sails are out and the silence is there, there is something quite magical for these kids that they don't get in the context within which they live,” said Stephen Rushton, SailFuture supporter. “Their context is violence and mother coming out of jail and grandfather in jail, not the wind. But we put them behind the wheel of a boat and make them figure where the wind is coming from and they have to pay attention. All of the sudden life becomes something different. It becomes:
'Oh, the wind is coming. I need to set the sail.' “
When 2015 Wild Gift Fellow Michael Long arrived in Sun Valley last February for a 2 week winter wilderness expedition, he had never seen snow before.
“I was terrified of the cold and the closest I had come to a mountain was running over a bridge crossing one of Florida's many watersheds”, he remembers.
Within 3 hours of arrival he was on skis in the dark of night trekking with the other Fellows and guides up to a remote cabin in Baker Creek to begin his new adventure. The rest is history.
Looking back, Michael made the connection: “[Wild Gift] took me way out of my comfort zone and gave me a dosage of my own medicine”.
He was referring to his venture SailFuture that uses ocean “wilderness” as an alternative to rehabilitating juvenile offenders.
While the terrain and demographics are very different, Wild Gift and SailFuture operate from the same core belief:
For Michael, being “on the receiving end of a transformational experience fundamentally shifted my view and appreciation of how the young men I serve feel, react, and think about their experience in our program”.
In less than one year, Michael's venture has received national attention and support inspiring the public and lawmakers to imagine new ways to give a second chance to young men who become victims of our criminal rehabilitation system. (See “More on Michael” with links to recent media coverage on the sidebar of this newsletter)
Currently Michael is making final preparations to take 9 at-risk teens from the Canary lslands to St. Lucia in the Caribbean in the privately donated 65 foot McGregor PilotHouse sailboat anointed “Defy the Odds” as part of the World Atlantic Rally.
Not wanting to miss the 2015 Wild Gift “Synergy River Trip” that normally takes place on Idaho's Salmon River at the end of each fellowship year, Michael suggested that instead this year his classmates and mentors join him for a week “defying the odds” while exploring the Canary Islands before he heads across the Atlantic.
So, on October 10, 5 daring mentors and supporters will meet up with Michael, Jon, Tinia and Leo for the trip of a lifetime. Class members will share stories of their fellowship year, brainstorm next steps and experience Michael's courageous venture first hand while exploring the land and culture in these spectacular islands off the west African coast.