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By Kim Cooper, Sail Newport

Every year since the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Rhode Island’s sailing community has gathered to fundraise for others in need with the sailing fundraiser. Sail for Hope takes place on Saturday, September 12. 

Contributions from this year’s event will benefit three local nonprofit organizations including The MLK Community Center for the extension of summer camp and hunger programs due to COVID-19; the RI Frontline Foods organization to deliver meals to medical workers and first-responders on the frontline of COVID-19; and Sail Newport, for extended youth recreational sailing programs for school-aged children as a result of school delays. 

“We’re in our 19th year and have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for dozens of charities due to the generosity of community sailors. We’re thrilled to be raising money this year for so many Rhode Islanders who have been affected by COVID-19,” says Scott Murray (Middletown, RI), a co-founder of the event. 

The MLK Community Center provides hunger services, family support, recreation, and educational programs for at-risk and underserved individuals, families, and children in Newport County, Rhode Island.

“We’re grateful to be one of the benefiting nonprofits for the 2020 Sail for Hope. The race’s name reflects what we do at the MLK Community Center every day. We offer hope to vulnerable kids, families, individuals, and seniors across Newport County. All funds donated to the MLK will support our critical COVID-19 relief,” says Heather Hole Strout, the MLK’s executive director. 

“We’re seeing unprecedented need in Hunger Services, in our Food Pantry, Mobile Food Pantry and Food Delivery programs, and in our Education programs where working parents unable to work from home look to us for high-quality childcare in our Preschool, Summer Camp and Outside-of-School programs. This generosity means we can keep saying ‘yes’ when local people ask for help,” Strout adds.

Frontline Foods Rhode Island was started as hospitals were getting hit hard with COVID-19. The nonprofit organization purchases meals for frontline medical staff on the COVID units, ER, or whatever department is in need the most at area hospitals. Also, The Sail for Hope funding will purchase meals to deliver to local first-responders, including the Newport Fire Department and the Newport Police Department. 

“Frontline Foods Rhode Island is thrilled to be selected by Sail For Hope. Our chapter is working to support local restaurants who have been devastated by the pandemic and hospital clinicians who continue to fight COVID-19, so our whole goal and purpose centers around hope,” says Amanda Langlais, Rhode Island chapter lead. 

Sail Newport, located in Fort Adams State Park, provides public access to sailing programs with instructional programs, boat rentals, sailing center services, and regattas and sailing events. With the delay of school and cancelation of many fall sports, Sail Newport will extend casual sailing and race training for children aged seven and older.  

“We live on an island, and these new opportunities are designed to get more children more time on the water. Sailing is not only restorative and fun and healthy, but the sport also builds children’s self-esteem, self-reliance, problem-solving skills, and perseverance. It’s really and outdoor classroom,” says Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport

Boats over 21′ may enter the race which circumnavigates Conanicut Island. The race start is outside of Newport Harbor and averages 18.3 miles around Jamestown. Sail Newport will organize multiple classes by rating, boat size and type including spinnaker and non-spinnaker divisions. Sail Newport will assign a rating for boats who don’t ordinarily race on Narragansett Bay so everyone can participate.

Sail Newport also encourages powerboaters to join and cruise around the island with the sailing fleet in a show of support and to help fundraise for the charitable organizations.

There is no after-race social, ordinarily held at the Newport Shipyard, because of COVID-19. Participants and supporters may donate online. Donors may select which charity is receive their financial contribution. 

“After the first event in 2001 in response to 9-11, we decided to make this an annual sailing event to continue to help those in need. Our slogan ‘Lest we Forget’ inspires us to remember those from that tragic day and to continue to help others,” Murray adds. 

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