Naval reservists give special needs youth a pirate adventure

Sailing vessel Surt, with skipper Ed Life and lots of happy kids. Photos by PO Albert van Akker

Sailing vessel Surt, with skipper Ed Life and lots of happy kids.
Photos by PO Albert van Akker

PO2 Emily Agopsowicz, HMCS Malahat ~

“Yo ho! Avast me hearties!” shouted an eye-patched captain aboard a colourful flag-festooned sailboat flying the Jolly Roger. A loud boom echoed, and a cannon blast of candy shot forward onto the jetty outside HMCS Malahat, much to the delight of the crowd of young “pirates” ashore.

Malahat was once again transformed into a pirate’s paradise in support of Variety – The Children’s Charity’s annual “fun raising” event, Boat for Hope on Saturday June 4.

This is the twelfth year Malahat has supported the event which gave over 300 children who have special needs and their families the opportunity to sail on an adventure in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Children donned their best pirate rigs and boarded festive ships to set out on a quest to various “Treasure Stations” where a bounty of toys awaited.
Malahat, ideally situated in James Bay, provided a perfect starting point for the adventure.

“The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) plays an important role in supporting our communities. Boat for Hope is a great example of the significant contribution our Naval Reserve sailors make across the Greater Victoria region,” said Lieutenant-Commander Michael Lawless, Commanding Officer, Malahat.

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. where children and their families were greeted by Sonar, the RCN’s mascot. On the parade deck, Malahat sailors facilitated games supplied by the Esquimalt Military Family Resource Centre. Outside, a lineup of excited youth eagerly waited for their turn to take a ride on one of the festively decorated ships manned by skippers in the community who volunteered their time and vessels.

Master Corporal Robert Stoodley, a member of 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, came with his wife and three children Carissa, Colten and Caydison. For Master Corporal Stoodley, the positive effect of Boat for Hope is close to home.

“My oldest daughter is autistic and about three years ago I was volunteering with the Victoria Society for Children with Autism and they said I should take my kids out on Boat for Hope. So I got my kids registered and volunteered, and have been coming back every year because it’s amazing. They have big smiles on their faces, they love doing the boat tour around the Inner Harbour and dressing up as pirates,” he said.

Petty Officer Second Class (Retired) Brian Stennes, a former Malahat member, was in attendance in full pirate regalia as part of the Vancouver Island Pirates.

The philanthropic pirates have been supporting Boat for Hope for five years.

Following their on-water adventure, children and their families headed to the Coast Guard station across the street where the festivities continued with live music, face painting, balloon animals and a barbeque.

Variety – The Children’s Charity steps in where health care ends, and provides direct help to children in B.C. with special needs through funding for medical care and services, mobility and communication equipment and therapies, and education and experiences that foster development.

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