Giving When It Matters

Elnicki Wade

Holiday shopping and bountiful feasts mark the time of year when people like to reach into their pockets and support charitable causes. Genuine generosity and the spirit of doing good deeds fill the air, offering hope through positive action.

But there's something special about the boating community: These folks donate when their boats are tucked away for winter or getting spruced up for a summer cruise. It's just their nature to rally round people whenever a need arises. Seafarers host fundraising events, volunteer personal time, donate products and shell out contributions in heartfelt gestures to help others. What floats their philanthropic boat? Issues as diverse as the vessels they steer and in places all over the map. It's safe to say their giving knows no boundaries.

Enriching Communities on Land & Sea

Ever since mankind figured out how to build a ship, the wanderlust of exploring new destinations has been part of the nautical way, but boaters usually find a pleasant port to call their home. Today's mariners don't just seek a place to hang their hat. They also look for ways to enhance communities where they roam or dock their boats. Caring about residents of seaside towns has evolved into supporting neighbors who face challenges and donating to groups that bolster the quality of life for children, veterans, the disabled and the disadvantaged.

For example, Island Global Yachting (IGY), a Fort Lauderdale-based marina management company, established the "Inspired Giving through You" initiative to support charities in its operating communities. IGY marina staff, boat owners, captains and crew push up their sleeves to volunteer at local nonprofits such as Camp Homeward Bound for homeless kids in New York City, A Child's Haven for young victims of poverty and abuse in Greenville, S.C., and Central Union Mission's shelter services in Washington, D.C.

In that same civic-minded spirit, Suntex Marinas teamed up with Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides scholarships for families of fallen or wounded soldiers. Their partnership to honor veterans plans to fill its coffers through fundraising events at Suntex's U.S. locations and a percentage of sales at its marina stores.

The joy of spending time on the water is a driving force for the boating lifestyle, but many realize that nautical experiences are often out of reach for disabled and at-risk populations. So, the boating community is brainstorming with nonprofits to develop and fund innovative programs that invite everyone on board for recreational, therapeutic and life-affirming endeavors.

For instance, at this year's Annapolis Boat Show, LH-Finance and Groupe Beneteau presented a $5,000 check and donated two new Beneteau First 22A boats to Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB). Their goal was to expand CRAB's fleet of sailboats that are custom designed to accommodate people with disabilities, bring the thrill of sailing to veterans and disadvantaged kids and turn wheelchair-bound warriors into water champions.

In similar fashion, the New England based Lagasse Group has forged a partnership with The Impossible Dream to help patients at the world-renowned Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital experience the healing power of the waves. The project docked a wheelchair-accessible catamaran at Charlestown Marina and ferried disabled and spinal cord-injured passengers with their families around Boston Harbor for a journey of therapeutic sailing.

Turning the Tide in Marine Conservation

For centuries, humans have been sloppy stewards of the Earth's oceans, lakes and rivers. We've overfished, polluted, ransacked once-abundant habitats and shown little regard for fragile ecosystems.

Spending time on the water brings boaters up close to marine maladies and offers proof that it's time to curb our negative impact on the seas, protect endangered species and restore aquatic resources for future generations. Whether they support global organizations such as the Cousteau Society and the World Wildlife Fund or volunteer for local river keeper organizations, such as the Back River Restoration Committee that removes trash from streams along the Chesapeake Bay, boaters are mobilizing and donating funds to promote environmental awareness and marine conservation.

While man-made solutions are promising, environmentalists are also enlisting sea creatures to help repair aquatic damage, and oysters are among the most enthusiastic recruits. One tiny oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day, and reefs of these mighty bivalves can shore up coastlines. Armed with that knowledge, the owner of Grady-White Boats and his family foundation began funding the North Carolina Nature Conservancy's oyster reef protection projects. Their efforts are making great strides in bolstering sustainable shellfish habitats, cleansing local water and safeguarding against storm erosion.

While oysters and other marine life are put to work on water conservation, some threatened species need human intervention to ensure their existence and defend their ecosystems. Fortunately, big-hearted boaters have an affinity for aquatic animals and fishes, so they donate considerable support to marine research, rescue and protection.

For instance, folks at Loggerhead Marinas, now owned by Suntex Marinas, grew concerned about the fate of endangered sea turtles and established a safe haven for them in Juno Beach, Fla. Long-term gifts from Seven Kings Holding, Inc. and other stakeholders in the boating industry have transformed this sanctuary into a world-class turtle rescue and learning facility. The staff conducts research, monitors nesting activities, harbors and cares for injured turtles, tags and monitors large turtles via satellite and builds public awareness through an aquarium and exhibits.

Dolphins found compassionate human friends at Hawks Cay Resort, who were committed to saving these unique marine mammals. In 1990, the Dolphin Connection was founded to study their behavior, shield them from harm and investigate how pollution impacts bottlenose dolphin breeding and reproduction. Zoological societies, aquariums and biologists from around the country contribute to the center's ventures.

Picking up the Pieces in the Wake of Catastrophes

Mother Nature can be a fickle lady. Some days she graces us with blue skies and gentle breezes, then turns around and unleashes torrential rain and catastrophic storms. As boaters face and sometimes even outsmart the elements, they become familiar with her mood swings and know what too much water and wind can do. So, this year when hurricanes clobbered Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, this compassionate community sprang into action by volunteering, donating cash and delivering needed products.

From kayaks to cruise ships, their giving came in all shapes and sizes. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria ransacked Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, YachtAid Global (YAG) and the SuperYacht Aid Coalition (SAC) combined forces to assist communities suffering from severe storm damage. Their joint effort gathered a fleet of superyachts to deliver much-needed relief aid and supplies to hurricane-ravaged towns. YAG founder Mark Drewelow notes that "the contributions and assistance coming from the yachting industry in response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria are unprecedented."

In addition to life-saving products, the marine industry collects monetary gifts to alleviate suffering in disaster-stricken regions. Special events and donation drives not only garner an impressive bounty of cash donations, but also raise awareness of disaster relief and offer a way for boaters to lend a hand in areas where they live or like to travel.

For instance, this year's Annapolis Boat Show collected a whopping $250,000 for hurricane relief in the Caribbean. Its campaign sparked the boating community to give through fundraising parties, Soggy Dollar donation boxes at the boat show and its Hands Across the Transom initiative that cultivated funds from boaters and nautical companies.

As MarineMax Vacations prepares for the upcoming charter season, the company pledges to donate 10% of new reservation fees for travel from December through early March 2018 and help rebuild the British Virgin Islands post Hurricane Irma. Funds raised through the relief effort will support island residents and business owners struggling to restore their homes, marinas, shops and livelihoods.

Keeping Our Oceans Clean

4Ocean is dedicated to removing the trash that ends up in our oceans and has collected over 175,000 pounds of trash so far. Proceeds of every of one of 4Ocean's 100% post-consumer recycled bracelets funds one pound of trash removal from the ocean. (

Choose The Right Charity

To help you sort through charitable giving options and make informed decisions about donating, consult GuideStar's free online service ( This organization gathers info on IRS-registered nonprofits including their mission, legitimacy, reputation, finances and programs. GuideStar also offers advice and tips for donors who want to give with their heads as well as their hearts.

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