By Talia Amorosano
It was a windy summer morning at the Northport Yacht Club on Monday where more than 100 sailors from age 8 to 17 rigged their own boats and hit the water to race at the 20th Annual Make-A-Wish Junior Sailors Regatta.
Sailors hailed from the Northport Yacht Club, Centerport Yacht Club, Huntington Yacht Club, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club and Huntington YMCA, and all gathered to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants children with life-threatening illnesses wishes within their lifetimes.
For the Doherty family, which has headed the regatta for nine years, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has a very personal significance: a family friend who died from a heart condition at age 16 was a Make-a-Wish recipient, and was able to take a trip to Walt Disney World Resort thanks to the organization.
Keara Doherty, 17, who has been the top fundraiser all nine years since being involved with the event, said that once she ages out of sailing in the regatta this year, she plans to become more directly involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and help her dad, Bob, who is involved with the club’s Special Event Committee, organize the regatta and recruit fundraisers. This year alone, Keara Doherty has raised $10,000 by writing personal letters to family and friends asking for donations.
According to Peggy Doherty, the teen’s mom, the fundraiser has become increasingly successful over the years. Nine years ago, the event raised $25,000. Last year, the group hit $50,000. She said that this year the fundraiser brought in $46,000.
Northport Yacht Club Rear Commodore Rich Boziwick spoke highly of Bob Doherty’s influence in making the fundraiser a success.
“He’s been an incredible asset to this whole event,” he said. “He coordinates, brings the staff together, and gets the kids together.”
This year’s winners, in order of increasing difficulty levels, were: Joey Zarcone (Opti Green), Connor Burns (Opti White), Aidan Quigley (Opti Blue), Sterling Thompson (Opti Red), Courtney Garrison and Zoe Buscareno (Pixel); Connor, Brandon and Tyler Besendorfer, and Sebastion Blot (Blue Jay); Hallie Simkins and Cormack Murphy (Club 420), and Gavin Anderson (Laser Radial).
It is clear that there is a high level of community involvement with the fundraiser, with bagged lunches donated by a local Stop & Shop and prizes (including baseball tickets and a kayak) for the top fundraisers donated by local shops and members of the yacht club.
The Northport Yacht Club also hosts an annual swim-a-thon that contributes to the total funds raised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year, there were 120 participants who swam 3,800 laps (53 miles) in total. Of the group, 16-year-old Bryce Winters came in first place, swimming 304 miles in under 3 hours. Fundraising worked on a kid-by-kid basis, with individuals and sponsors setting rules for how sponsors would donate, sometimes based on number of laps swam or number of hours spent swimming.
Peggy Doherty said that the yacht club plans to continue hosting the fundraiser for years to come and that she and her family plan to stay involved.
“The kids are doing so much better with fundraising [as the years go on],” she said.