Organizations across Haliburton are partnering with the new Haliburton County Youth Sailing Association (HYSA) to provide a new sporting outlet for at-risk kids.  

Partners met to discuss the start of the association June 4 at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 636 Minden.

The group plans to offer youth a chance to sail with one-on-one instruction to help improve mental health.

The association will take referrals from youth agencies for kids at-risk but will be inclusive to all who want to participate.  Director Robin Carmount, who also works with Haliburton Highlands OPP, said the community needs more things for youth to engage with. 

 “A lot of our calls, every day, deal with mental health,” he said. “If we can kind of get to these kids, get to these people when they’re younger – there’s not a lot of stuff for kids to go to here. Not only can we work with mental health but it also gives kids in crisis, or not, something to do.” 

 About 19 people representing different organizations attended the meeting. Groups included the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society, Trillium Lakelands District School Board, the County of Haliburton, Haliburton County Development Corporation and the Kawartha North Family Health Team.  

HYSA director Andrew Hodson said the idea is to focus on sailing as a vehicle to teach “soft skills.”  

“This is more about resiliency and life skills and social inclusion,” he said. “This is just real organic mindfulness … the whole idea of this isn’t to over structure it. It’s simply to put a life jacket on a kid, put them on the water and get the mind to literally be mindful. Not in the past, not fear of the future. In the moment on the water.”  

Hodson said directors thought it an original idea to combine mental health work and sailing. But they found a number of studies linking the sport to positive mental health outcomes.  

The association is trying to gather funding and volunteers to start sailing this summer. It does not yet have official non-profit status but Carmount said he plans to get that in time.  

The goal will be to work with a small number of youth to start. The group has chosen to work primarily out of Twelve Mile Lake at the Red Umbrella Inn, which is donating space. Carmount said he expects the association

can get enough funding through donations to operate. But he identified transportation as the biggest challenge. 

“Kids that are in Cardiff, or Dorset, or Haliburton. If there’s a struggle with (transportation), that’s a problem,” he said. “I think that’s going to be our biggest cost.” 

Director Tom Oliver said the association will be completely inclusive. 

“We want to be inclusive to anybody and everybody. It certainly isn’t directed towards a particular group or particular gender,” he said. 

Carmount said he is pleased about all the different organizations who are willing to contribute. 

“We got water, we got fantastic people, we got it all.” 

More information is available on the group’s website mindoverwater.org .

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