Rotary Club learns about charity effort

PARKERSBURG – A nationwide organization that involves underprivileged children in water sports has events in the Mid-Ohio Valley, the local organizer told the Parkersburg Rotary Club Monday.

Clint Suggs, a member of the Parkersburg Rotary and the local organizer for Wake the World West Virginia, talked to Rotary about what Wake the World is and what it does.

Wake the World is a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides water sports opportunities to residents of local children’s homes, those in foster care or in the care of the state.

“Whether it’s wakeboarding, wake surfing, kneeboarding, water skiing, tubing, swimming or just hanging out in a boat, we are providing a first-time chance for young people across the country to experience water sports in a loving and caring environment,” Suggs said.

The events are made possible by people that donate their time and resources.

“I am a water sports enthusiast and I grew up always on the water,” Suggs said. “I grew up on boats and doing water skiing.”

He and his wife Rhonda have regularly taken their own children out on their boat in the Ohio River and do a variety of water sports and activities.

“We just felt there was something else that we wanted to do,” Suggs said. “We wanted to be able to share our love of water sports with other people.”

About three years ago Suggs found out about Wake the World. The organization was founded in 2008 in North Carolina by Greg Hodgin.

As of 2013, there were Wake the World events in 18 states and Canada, including West Virginia. Around 25 are already planned for this year nationwide.

“When we started this we thought we were doing it for the kids,” Hodgin said in a video Suggs played. “After that first event, we are out there exchanging stories.

“We realized it wasn’t just about the kids, it was about all of us involved. You don’t know who you are making an impression on. When you do something for someone else, you don’t know who is watching. Someone else can be inspired by what you are doing and do something awesome themselves.”

The local Wake the World event is held at Buzzie Dils Park in Vienna the last Monday in July.

“We wanted to be able to share some time with other people who did not have the opportunity to do the things we took for granted,” he said.

They held their first local event in July 2012 with kids in foster care, involved in the local juvenile drug court and from the Children’s Home Society.

“This year we are hoping to take out 35-40 kids,” Suggs said. “We would like to do more, but with the circumstances and the number of boats we have.”

They rely a lot on volunteers and sponsors that help out.

One of the biggest challenges is finding the boat drivers. Requirements for the program say only inboard direct drive boats can be used.

“There are not a whole lot of those in this area,” Suggs said. “We have to reach out to the people who have the right kind of boat.

“That narrows the field on who can help us out as drivers.”

Kids participate in team building exercises, go out on the boats, participate in the water activities, have lunch, spend more time out on the boats and have dinner which includes a speaker. The kids either need to know how to swim or are required to wear a life-jacket the whole time they are out.

“This is their day to have fun,” Suggs said. “Our goal is to encourage these kids.

“Many of these kids have been neglected or letdown by the adults in their lives.”

Many of the participants are surprised that anyone would take the time to do something for them, especially something many people take for granted, Suggs said.

The organizers try to encourage the kids to finish school, try new things and build trust between them and the kids.

“They learn if they set their mind to something, they can accomplish big things in their lives,” Suggs said.