Dawn Hust smiled as she watched her daughter play in the clear waters of Sand Key. Home, in Washington, doesn’t offer views like this.
“It warms my heart to see everybody together as a community and friends instantly without every meeting people,” she said. “We have this unspoken bond between the families and you’re immediately friends.”
The Hust family is one of nearly 50 from all over the country who came to Clearwater for a weekend of fun on the water. They arrived the for the 6th-annual Never Say Never Pirate Sailing Camp, hosted by some avid water sportsmen, including Team USA sailing Paralympian, Brad Kendell.
“It’s fun to be with other people that are with prosthetics because you feel comfortable with them,” said 13-year old Deven Jackson, who lost both of his legs to a bacterial meningitis infection.
The camp offers kids with missing limbs the chance to learn to “never say never”. The motto was adopted by Kendell and helped him overcome the loss of his own legs in a 2003 plane crash. He went on to win a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
“Our main objective for these kids is never say never,” said Kendell. “That’s what we want to get out of them.”
Kids were given the chance to learn how to sail from advanced sailors, go on a chartered fishing trip, kayak, paddleboard and meet Winter the dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Campers and their able-bodied siblings and parents came from as far away as Washington state.
“I was excited about coming because there would be kayaking and sailing and all this fun stuff,” said Dawn’s son, Noah. His sister had her left foot amputated.
The pirate camp started with just 14 families in its first year.