People of all ages, searching for fun and escape, have learned sailing for the first time on Twelve Mile Lake this summer.

The Haliburton County Youth Sailing Association is running for its first year out of the Red Umbrella Inn near Minden. Director Robin Carmount said the idea started off with a conversation in January to help improve the mental health of youth by taking them out on the water.

Seven months later, the group is doing just that. Now with 20 participants registered, the club is going at full speed.

“We’ve exceeded any expectations we had,” Carmount said. “It’s absolutely, totally amazing. The quality of the people that have stepped up and helped out. The directors, the volunteers, I can’t say enough.”

The sailing is open to anyone, but targets kids who are struggling or at risk, referred by local agencies. Participants are treated to a day out sailing under the guidance of volunteers.

Director Andrew Hodson, who also works with the Canadian Mental Health Association, said the results are strong so far.

“I can tell you they’re just chomping at the bit to come back,” Hodson said “We’ve been hearing really amazing things. We’ve been hearing things like increased self-esteem, increased self-confidence … everybody’s provided lots of good feedback. It’s been great.”

The community stepped up after a meeting with several organizations in June, Carmount said. Donations poured in, including funding, boats, equipment and shirts.

“We just sort of planted the seed and the community jumped on it and watered it from every direction,” Hodson said.

The club teaches a truncated version of a recognized sailing program, but puts a priority on getting kids out on the water quickly, Hodson said.

Cathy McMullen brought her grandchildren to attend a session Aug. 23. They were referred from the waitlist of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.

“I just thought it’d be good for them to get off their tablets, come outside and enjoy some fresh air,” McMullen said. “It’s good for them to be involved with new people, mentors.”

Drey Cook has attended a couple of sessions. He said he wanted to go to as many as he could.

“It’s a good thing that I’m getting out and not playing video games everyday anymore and to get trying new things,” Cook said.

The club still wants to make improvements. Carmount said he wants to be considerate of people on the east end of the County of Haliburton and work on transportation for them.

The association plans to run during weekends through September before shutting things down until next summer, making improvements throughout the winter.

Hodson said the club is in a good position to grow, but must keep its central objectives in mind.

“This is really no barriers. It’s really open door,” Hodson said. “We want to keep it just very organic, very natural. Because the lake provides the therapy.”

Information is available at mindoverwater.org or by contacting Carmount at mindoverwater2019@gmail.com.

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