Sailors with disabilities will be able to enjoy their hobby more often thanks to Otley Sailing Club and a Lancashire company.
Dozens of severely disabled residents from the Hollybank Trust have been enjoying regular Wednesday sessions at Otley Sailing Club since 1994.
Now adult enthusiasts will be able to attend sailing sessions on Mondays, too, after club member Mark Stephens volunteered to cover the Trust's fuel costs for two days a week over the next 12 months.
Mark, the son of the club’s senior instructor Norman Stephens, is a co-founder and director of Preston-based firm Freightlink – and, through the business, is also funding Hollybank’s corporate membership fee for the year.
Mr Stephens said: “We’ve had a relationship with Hollybank Trust now for some time and it’s one we want to continue because we see the value in education.
“The positive impact Hollybank has on the lives of many children and adults is something that should continue.”
Hollybank's enrichment project manager Stewart Geddes said: “This is just fantastic news for us and will help to meet the high demand for sailing places.
“We can increase our numbers from 14 to 24 each week. We are so grateful to Mark for his donation and to all the club and volunteers for their support over the years.”
In preparation for the additional sessions Hollybank staff have been receiving training, free of charge, from the club – with Andy Powell, Farrah Roberts, and Stewart and Mick Jackson all recently passing their Royal Yachting Association Safety Boat Training certificates.
The Trust's driver, Frank Hemingway, and volunteer Fred Yarwood have also been trained to use the safety boat.
Mr Geddes added: “We can now be more self-sufficient at the club because we have qualified staff trained to a very high standard to be able to support people.
“The training included diving in and out of the freezing water rescuing boats, which shows our fantastic dedication.
“We had a wonderful season last year with lots of people trying the sport for the first time as well as established sailors. We also had visitors from parents, companies via fundraising, independent advocates and social workers, as well as managers.
“We have sailed, eaten and laughed together and all had a great time. We are very excited that the new season has now started again.”
The Hollybank Trust cares for and educates children and adults with complex needs. It says its residents, who are nearly all wheelchair dependent, enjoy a great feeling of independence, freedom and self-esteem when they are out on the water.