There’s just one word that reminds Paul Dinniss why he first volunteered for Sailability Gold Coast: “FREEDOM”!
“It’s the look of freedom on the faces of our clients when they are out on the water,” says Mr Dinniss, the charity’s current president. “It’s a great leveller – they are out of their restrictive world and they can be their own person – with the wind and the water on their side, they can do anything!”
Hundreds of people have tasted this special type of freedom since the seeds were sown for Queensland’s first functional Sailability charity on the Gold Coast in 1997 – some have intellectual disabilities, some physical impairments and, some, both.
“Our mantra is ‘freedom on the water regardless of ability’,” says Mr Dinniss. “We enjoy helping people to embrace life.”
This is why Sailability Gold Coast is one of the worthy beneficiaries of the not-for-profit Gold Coast International Marine Expo.
The Expo – now in its fourth year – has raised more than $50,000 for charities including Sailability Gold Coast, the Rotary Club of Coomera River, Paradise Kids and the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Rescue Service.
Mr Dinniss says the $4000 donated to Sailability from last year’s Expo was the largest single contribution for the charity in 2013.
“We have 19 vessels in our fleet – ranging from 2.3m dinghies to support vessels and 5.5m yachts – and all require ongoing maintenance costs,” he says.
“The Expo certainly goes a long way to helping us provide our services every Tuesday at the Southport Yacht Club Sailing Squadron at Hollywell – we directed some of the funds from last year towards buying a new access dinghy and some towards repairing the wear and tear on our other boats.”
The Expo – which last year attracted a record 21,000 people – also gives the charity a platform to showcase its extraordinary efforts.
“For us, Expo is the big one,” says Mr Dinniss. “We get to let people know we are here and also gets them talking and taking an interest – last year we signed new clients as well as a bunch of new volunteers.”
Sailability Gold Coast has 142 volunteers with 30-40 needed to conduct sailing experiences at Hollywell for 70-100 clients each week.
“We are always in need of volunteers – the more support we have the more people we can help,” says Mr Dinniss. “You don’t need any experience whatsoever to volunteer and we also have training days if people would like to get more involved.”
“The Gold Coast International Marine Expo brings together everything from kayaks to superyachts, fishing equipment to jetskis and everything else in between in a 3km-long display circuit featuring live attractions and demonstrations every 15 minutes,” says Ms Milne.
“This year’s Expo promises to be our most successful yet – all of our major drawcards will be back and we have also confirmed a number of world and Australian product launches.”