Able to Sail asks “What does it feel like to be you most of the time?”

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Photo courtesy of Diane McKinney

“What does it feel like to be you most of the time?”

This seems like a simple enough question, yet Dianne McKinney, executive director of Able to Sail, feels like most youth don’t get asked this question at all or at least not often enough.

Being Harvard bound and an Olympic level soccer goalie, McKinney was not looked at as an at-risk youth. Yet, she felt as though she was never able to meet the expectations of her mother.

Dianne McKinney has dealt with these issues in her youth and knows the effects they can have on a young person. “I know what it is like growing up believing that I am not good enough no matter what.”

Because of her past, McKinney decided to dedicate her adult life to helping others out of the many holes she found herself in by becoming a spiritual counselor. She uses this background to teach a youth empowerment camp that uses sailing as a teaching method.

Photo courtesy of Diane McKinney

“I avoid talking about sailing because it is the clay through which we work or the foundation,” McKinney says. The method doesn’t matter to McKinney but the message does.

“This is the most powerful generation that’s ever walked the planet. We desperately need them to live into their purpose and their potential, and to battle the negatives you have to create long-term beliefs of the opposite.”

Able to Sail is a nonprofit summer day camp for youth ages 11-18 and is conducted at Union Reservoir in Longmont. Lessons on sailing are translated into conversations about belonging, bullying, being good enough, depression/anxiety, social media issues, letting go of mistakes, celebrating diversity, chemical use, the “self” in self-esteem, negative thinking, and suicidal ideations.

It is through these lessons that McKinney and her team help campers change their way of thinking from the negative to the positive.

McKinney points out that while there are certain groups who frequent her camp, such as LGBTQ and at risk youth, these lessons are needed for all youth. She states that you can’t always see what is going through someone’s mind, no matter how they appear to be on the outside.

Being a former addict, McKinney would makes lists as to why she wanted to get sober. Those lists included things like sailing and rock climbing. After her fourth rehab, she moved into an area of Longmont which encountered several one parent families.

She befriended these families and her house became a place to hang out. As she listened to the stories of some of these young people, she became disheartened that they didn’t have a list of positive things to look forward to. Instead, their lists consisted of doing drugs and drinking alcohol.

Photo courtesy of Diane McKinney

It dawned on her that these children may never have something positive to look forward to. So, she decided it was time to help them create such a list. Using a couple of sailboats of her own she created the Able to Sail nonprofit.

McKinney’s goal is to “keep alive in them [the campers] the remembrance, even if it is a soulful remembrance, that they are brilliant, that they are magnificent, that they do belong, that they do fit in, that they can make a difference. We keep the good versus bad battle alive inside them.”

What does it feel like to be you most of the time?

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