New club teaches inner-city kids how to sail

Barry County

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A new club based out of Middleville is working to teach inner-city kids how to sail. The goal is to make the sport more accessible.

The Jolly Madison Sailing Club is in its first year. Founders say they realized that not all kids have access to the lakeshore, but by forming this club that quickly changed.

“I learned how to like work better with people and use boats better,” said 13-year-old Maria Kammeraad, of Grand Rapids.

Kammeraad says before joining the Jolly Madison Sailing Club, she never really had a chance to go out on the water.

“I think it’s important because there’s more than one way to go places,” said Kammeraad.

“It was very apparent that there were not a lot of opportunities for inner-city youth to have access to the lakeshore, to have access to the equipment, the boats,” said co-founder Bill Sleeman.

“Totally break down those barriers and remove those barriers for inclusion,” said Lisa Russell, another co-founder.

Sleeman and Russell say they saw a need for young kids of all backgrounds to have a chance to try something new, so they brought them out on Barlow Lake behind the YMCA camp in Middleville to do just that.

“Their eyes then are opened to a new opportunity and community,” said Russell.

The club is in its final week of the year and relies on community support to operate, making it completely free for the kids who participate. The group says the skills and connections learned this summer will last for years to come.

“Making friendship is fun like, I have more friends now than I had before this,” said Kammeraad.

“What I’m inspired to see is just continuing to connect different communities and see what comes naturally out of that,” said Russell.

Participating youth groups include the Boys and Girls Club and New City Kids. 

More information about the Jolly Madison Sailing Club can be found online

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