STAMFORD, Conn. -- Fifty campers are in the midst of a five-week summer sailing camp that its backers hope will give them a lifelong love of the water and sailing.
The Young Mariners Foundation of Stamford offers a program that reaches into Stamford's public schools beginning with Grade 5 students who want to learn more about the water and sailing, program director Peter Gunn said.
The program is designed to teach lower-income city kids who don't have the opportunity to learn about sailing and the marine world, Gunn said. Many of the students have no experience on the water despite living on the coast of Long Island Sound, he said.
"Most of these kids don't know how to swim. They live within a half mile of the water and they haven't been to the beach," Gunn said.
The five-week summer program runs from June 30 and ends Aug. 1. It operates out of John Boccuzzi Park on Southfield Avenue.
"Half of the day is sailing so that they get to use what they learn in the other half of the day," Gunn said.
The camp charges $250 per student for the five weeks for new students. Returning students pay $500 for the five weeks. Business and individuals have been generous in supporting the program and enabling students to join, he said.
"We have never turned anyone away in the 10 years we have run the program," Gunn said.
The program hires interns and junior instructors who have been involved in the past. They reach into the school system for teachers who either have a sailing background or want to learn to sail to help lead the students' education during the camp.
Mekhi Barnett, 15, is an intern on the camp staff. He is a veteran of the program, beginning when he was 10 years old.
"It looked like fun, and I had a lot of friends doing it," said Barnett, adding that there was no sailing background in his immediate family. But he is happy to take part.
"It's once in a lifetime," he said with a smile.