Children's program sets sail on Lake Norman

Many children in the Lake Norman area will experience the outdoors in a whole new way.

N.C. Community Sailing and Rowing and partner Cornelius PARC plan to host between 40 and 60 sailors with special needs on May 14.

Children with cognitive impairments are able to board and oftentimes navigate their own Flying Scot sailboats into Lake Norman with the help of caregivers and center volunteers.

The program has been running at no cost to the public for two years.

"It's been a great way for all our volunteers to get involved and have a direct impact in the community," said Will Pascall, waterfront director at the sailing and rowing center.

N.C. Community Sailing and Rowing has been committed to inspiring new sailing enthusiasts and also reaching out to those wouldn't have access to the sports without the organization.

Sailing has always been known as therapeutic for even the most able-bodied person.

"We are finding the sport to be a great way to engage people who oftentimes have trouble connecting with other people or ideas," said Pascall. The sport allows participants to be involved in a hands-on activity that helps them tune into the outside environment, he said.

New this year to NCCSR is the launch of the Access Sailing program.

"We're now equipped and able to teach people with certain physical disabilities to learn to sail and eventually skipper their own boats with little to no assistance," Pascall said.

The group bought three "access dinghies" in the winter of 2010. These boats are designed to accommodate many disabilities and come custom-made from Australia. A couple of these boats will be in the water for inspection May 14.

NCCSR is a committed group. On Mother's Day, more than 25 volunteers planned to show up at Blythe Landing to assemble and install the organization's new dock that will allow its rowing operation to move from the Cornelius YMCA to Blythe Landing.