Norman boathouse teaches sailing to kids

Norman's Lake Thunderbird BoatHouse quietly passed its fifth year last month.

With the help of many partners, the nonprofit provides programs ranging from an annual fishing derby for disabled children to first-aid certification and a regatta for kids. But, perhaps most visibly, programming has taken the form of sailing classes, including those for children.

"(We) might as well get as early a start as we can trying to recruit some people to sailing," said Chad Cox, a retired biochemistry professor who teaches the BoatHouse's kids' day camps.

"I really like to see the kids learn to sail," he said, remembering one student who was autistic, another boy with "no confidence." "(That boy) was one of them " just to go from somebody who really didn't think he could learn how to sail and then go and have a good time doing it. "¦ I hope we didn't create a monster."

For those who do stick with it, sailing can become self-defining.

"This little one-week sailing class they took for fun made a profound difference in their lives," Norman resident Becky Smith said of her son and daughter. "I know that sounds like a dramatic statement, but "¦ sailing has become such a large focal point in their lives."

Now 18, Lee Smith is a sailing instructor and class volunteer. "When you sail, it's like being free," he said.  "Emily Jerman

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