It was a big week for three lucky students from Newcastle High School.
The Making Waves Foundation (MWF) visited the area as part of the Sail Port Stephens regatta and some of the school’s special development pupils were invited to join the racing, as well as speak at their fundraising lunch.
For Adam, it was his third sail with the MWF in the past four years.
Usually, it is a calm sail in Newcastle Harbour with several of his schoolmates but, this time, he, Aiden and Taylor were in for a real treat.
On Tuesday, the boys became the first school students ever to join the Making Waves volunteer crew in an official race.
They participated alongside more than 100 other racing yachts around the islands off the Port Stephens coastline in the Sail Port Stephens Commodores Cup – and secured third in their division.
Adam is a school prefect and suffers from an intellectual disability, Williams Syndrome.
However, he was thrilled to be out on the water again.
“I’m so excited, but I’m also a bit nervous,” he revealed as he arrived back at the dock.
Adam does not like getting wet and didn’t realise he would be part of the race till he got there.
“Sailing makes me feel calm and happy – and very excited,” he said afterwards.
“It makes me realise that with help and opportunity, I can do things.
“I want to be a captain one day, just like our skipper Kathy.”
On Thursday, the boys were invited to speak at the Making Waves Foundation Layday Playday luncheon at d’Albora Marina’s, Broughton’s at The Bay.
They spoke about their experiences sailing and working alongside the MWF volunteers.
Taylor had the room in tears and applauding when he said going sailing with the crew felt like being “part of the Making Waves family”.
Newcastle High’s head teacher support Khym Harris joined the boys for the race and at the lunch.
She’s been involved with the program for five years.
“Programs like this allow our students to experience something that they have never done before,” she stated.
“It allows them not only to sail but also encourages them to try new things.”
The students were particularly keen for such an exciting excursion this year.
“COVID-19 definitely impacted our students,” Ms Harris said.
“They were not able to access the community for things like travel training, going to shopping centres, and were not able to attend inter school sporting events or excursions.
“The impact of COVID-19 hit our students hard and their level of self-confidence dropped and their anxiety increased.”
Ms Harris was thrilled the Making Waves Foundation offered her pupils this unique experience.
“Even students with complex sensory needs become calm as they feel the sun and wind on their faces,” she added.
“These are things we can’t assess or write reports on – but they are things that make the world of difference to them.”
Making Waves Foundation has taken more than 50,000 disabled and disadvantaged young people like Aiden sailing over the past 26 years.
Their lives and outlook for the future change through these experiences.
To support the foundation’s programs both locally and nationally, donations can be made at www.makingwavesfoundation.com.au