2016-08-04 / Front Page

Gold Star Teens Adventure in Newport

By Jack Kelly


Following an afternoon of sailing on board Newport Yacht Club members' vessels, Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano greeted the teens and welcomed them to a barbecue at the yacht club. 
(Photo by Jack Kelly) Following an afternoon of sailing on board Newport Yacht Club members' vessels, Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano greeted the teens and welcomed them to a barbecue at the yacht club. (Photo by Jack Kelly) A special group of young people, Gold Star Youths, has arrived in Newport for a week of sailing, fun and adventure. The teens, ranging in age from 13-18, are guests of SALTY (Seamanship and Leadership Training for Youths), a Rhode Island-based nonprofit, and the Rhode Island National Guard.

According to Capt. David Pickering, founder and board member of SALTY, "This sailing adventure provides a week-long co-ed, fun and nurturing program for the surviving teens of military personnel who have given their lives in defense of our freedoms. This adult-supervised adventure, living aboard sailing vessels, offers the teens an exciting experience while healing, learning valuable life lessons, and developing enduring friendships with other Gold Star teens." Pickering privately chartered two sailboats and one powerboat for the week of camaraderie, which began on July 31.


Gold Star teens were met by a 45- foot response boat from the Castle Hill Coast Guard Station. 
(Photo by Jack Kelly) Gold Star teens were met by a 45- foot response boat from the Castle Hill Coast Guard Station. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Thirteen teens, mostly from the New England area but with one from as far away as Nebraska and two from the United Kingdom, are participating in the week's events, which include sailing to points around Narragansett Bay and exploring the various islands of the bay. Individual sailing lessons and paddle board classes are also on the agenda. Land-based activities include a tour of Fort Adams, time at the Shipboard Bridge Simulator at the Newport Naval Station, polo instructions at the Glen Farm Polo Club, a clambake on the beach, rappelling instructions and military police static displays at Camp Fogarty, tours of C-130J and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters at the Quonset air base, and a welcoming barbecue at the Newport Yacht Club with Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano.

The program was initially conceived by lead counselor, Col. Patrick Powers, Special Forces, U. S. Army, in 2013, who had ties to Newport’s sailing community.

"The first year we held the camp for surviving teens of Special Operations personnel. However, we identified a larger need for this type of outreach and opened it to all surviving teens in Rhode Island the following year," Powers said. "The demand for these programs does not go away, but we have experienced growing awareness and support from the public. We have been inundated with support from veterans, the sailing community of Newport, the State of Rhode Island, the City of Newport, the Newport Harbormaster, Castle Hill Coast Guard Station, and the local maritime industry. Folks just want to help our teens."

Pickering and Powers acknowledged the growing number of corporate sponsors which have stepped forward with financial support, including Amica Insurance, Twin Rivers Casino, Foxwoods, Walmart, and many personal donations from private citizens.

Pickering and Jessica Rivard, Southern New England survivor outreach coordinator, lead a team of dedicated volunteers. "Sailing instructions are provided by USCG licensed captains, and volunteers from the Coasters Harbor Island Yacht Club and the Newport Yacht Club assist with sea-going instructions," Pickering said. "We have many people offering their time and vessels to assist us with this wonderful adventure. We have more offers for the kids than we have time."

"We have received an outpouring of love and care from the local community. We have experienced a great familial feeling embracing these kids. It is this sense of community that is Newport," Powers added.

The theme for the week is teambuilding and leadership through shared experiences, which fosters strong bonds between the teens.

"Our goal is to help these young people heal and make long-lasting friendships with others who have endured the same type of loss," Powers said. "At the end of the adventure, the teens invariably tell me this was the best week of their life. Rhode Island should feel proud."

If interested in supporting SALTY for next year’s program, contact Capt. David Pickering at saltyfoundation@gmail.com or 401-742-5039.

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