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Kids have waves of fun at Chicago sailing camp anchored with life lessons

Chicago sailing camp anchors kids with life lessons
Chicago sailing camp anchors kids with life lessons 02:50

CHICAGO (CBS) — Tying knots and finding the wind are the fundamentals of any sailing lesson, but in Montrose Harbor this week, a summer camp with a different mission.

Every sail on Lake Michigan starts with a checklist that covers preparations and best practices. At Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club this week, Spectrum Sailing is taking place with three days of the fundamentals with 24 kids.

"They call it the autism spectrum for a reason. Every kid is different," said Scott Herman, Executive Director and Founder of Spectrum Sailing.

A former Chicago resident now living in Charleston, South Carolina, Scott Herman started the program when he couldn't find a sailing school that would admit his now 16-year-old son Daniel.  

"This group is insanely engaged. I had kids come in yesterday, and they had already read books on sailing. They are already teaching me the parts of the boat and the lessons," Herman said.

They have only the wind to take them out of the harbor. Learning how to navigate these waves -- and throwing in some of their own. 

Like the jokes at the beginning of classes, these sessions build confidence and character.

"Give them a chance to come out of their shells a little bit," Herman said.

Lessons they can use as they navigate life.

 "Some of these kids are going to be docking the boat by themselves at the end, and some of these kids may not even drive the boat, but the point is they all have an opportunity to come here and have a chance to do something different, and feeling included and feel part of the team."

One of those kids is 11-year-old Owen McAuliffe, who's already learned four knots before he heads outside.

"I've never been sailing before. So this is going to be a first, and I have always wanted to go sailing," McAuliffe said.

Spectrum sailing can be just the start for some of these students. Organizers said some of their kids join more advanced sailing programs.

When these students leave, in an aptly-named sailing boat called "Awesome." 

The program taught about 350 students across ten cities free of charge, but dozens more were left on the Chicago waitlist. Herman said the goal is to grow the program and donations so no kids are left on the dock.

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