Harken Derm

Sail For Justice: Seeking to Prove a Point

Published on September 26th, 2015

For 10 months, Gavin Bayer was locked behind stone walls, barbed wire and security fences.

The 17-year-old from Boca Raton was staying at the Orange Youth Academy, a juvenile detention center in Orlando, for a burglary conviction. It was in there he took a chance and applied to be part of a program that had no walls, no guards, no security.

Just the open sea and a chance for the adventure of a lifetime.

Bayer is one of 10 juvenile offenders who were selected to participate in a 2,700-mile race from off the coast of Africa to the Caribbean as part of a Sarasota-based nonprofit called SailFuture.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said. “I’m so tired of being let down. This is great.”

The journey — dubbed Sail For Justice — is to prove a point, organizers said, that juvenile offenders can become contributing members of society.

“We are about fighting to prove that we’re capable, that we’re not going to be defined by the worst things we’ve ever done,” said Mark Hunter, one of SailFuture’s co-founders. “We’re going to show that juvenile offenders are capable of change, and that they deserve that opportunity.”

SailFuture is a program that teaches youthful offenders and at-risk youth about sailing and the marine industry. Their methodology is simple: Give kids a sense of purpose, teach them a trade and it will empower them to do better in school and in their personal lives.

Program officials say giving kids positive role models, serious responsibilities — often which can mean life or death out on the open sea — and a rigorous structure will help them as adults, whether they choose to become involved in sailing or the marine industry.

The offenders were picked nationwide from about 170 applicants.

Gavin is the only participant from South Florida, and one of five members of the team who live in the state. Others include a teen from Chicago, two from Arizona and one from South Dakota. – Sun Sentinel, full story

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