BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The coronavirus pandemic has caused waves of anxiety and stress for health care and other essential workers. Now, the Burlington nonprofit Healing Winds is back on the water to help.
“We have had a slow and thoughtful and mindful start to our season, so we have decided because cancer patients and their doctors may not be comfortable being in the boat we’ve reduced our program,” said Sylvia Oblak, the group’s executive director.
Oblak says last year they were able to make 64 mission sails with cancer patients. But since the coronavirus is more dangerous for those at high risk of infection, taking cancer patients out on the water just didn’t seem safe, so they decided to adjust their mission for more smooth sailing.
“We have pivoted because we understand that stress is a huge factor for our health care workers and we want to say, Healing Winds wants to say thank you to the health care workers in our community,” said Oblak.
They have decided to offer tours to health care workers who work with cancer patients, whatever their role may be.
COVID-19 presented some new challenges, such as thinking of creative ways to social distance and clean between sails and keeping everyone aboard safe, but there was never a doubt it could be pulled off.
“I’m a sailor, I’m going to sail and I’m going to figure out how to get them out,” said Kym Ketcham, the group’s head captain.
He says he joined last year because he wanted to share his passion for sailing, but has since discovered this was about so much more.
“At first I thought it was all about showing people how great Lake Champlain was, but it was a learning experience for me when these cancer patients came out on the lake it affected them way more than I could have ever imagined,” said Ketcham.
And Ketcham is excited to offer that same experience to the same people who help those patients.
“Just to have health care workers out on that lake and experience how great sailing really is, is exciting,” he said.
Oblak says that one patient that went for a sail last year told her that with more sails like these, cancer would have a cure.
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