With “Launching Life’s Adventure” as its theme, this year’s fourth annual summer fundraising party for Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI) on Friday, July 1, raised over $100,000 for its education-at-sea programs that begin this summer aboard Rhode Island’s Official Sailing Education Vessel SSV Oliver Hazard Perry. The 200-foot ship was dockside at Newport Shipyard and open for tours during cocktail hour, which featured a fresh seafood raw bar, passed hors d’oeuvres and drinks, including the “Gilded Sailor” signature cocktail that matched perfectly with a special appearance by the Shifty Sailors, a men’s singing group from the Pacific Northwest that performs at Tall Ships festivals around the world. The event, which hosted 350 guests, was coordinated by Campo & Company Events and continued with dinner by Blackstone Caterers, dancing to the music of Dance Floor DJ, and live and silent auctions.
The party was held in memory of Vice Admiral Thomas R. Weschler (December 21, 1917 – April 3, 2016) who was a driving force behind OHPRI since its inception and remained actively involved into his final days. Major sponsors were Bowen’s Wharf and Multi-State Electric. Event chairs were Lisa Lewis, Karen Kelly Shea and Teresa Kratzman.
The building of SSV Oliver Hazard Perry has been a $16 million economic development project, which has supported hundreds of jobs in the Rhode Island marine industry
“Our Summer Party this year marks a huge milestone in the history of OHPRI,” said OHPRI Executive Director Jess Wurzbacher in her address to the guests. “Later this month our first group of trainees (some of which are attending here) will sail aboard our brand new ship and experience the exhilaration of sailing the largest civilian Tall Ship in the US. Last year SSV Oliver Hazard Perry embarked on her maiden voyage, visited five ports throughout New England and welcoming over 16,000 people aboard during dockside events. This, coupled with two years of successful summer programs where we sailed with over 350 trainees aboard a chartered vessel, leaves us excited to start our next adventures and shine a spotlight on OHPRI’s mission of providing innovative and empowering education-at-sea programs to promote personal and professional growth.”
Wurzbacher also announced two new funds: The VADM Thomas R. Weschler Crew Development Fund, to provide financial assistance to the crew in maintaining as well as advancing their USCG licenses and thereby encouraging the highest possible standards aboard the ship, and the Oliver Hazard Perry Scholarships Fund, to provide financial assistance to a long list of institutions that have become the ship’s Education Partners.